Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. Last week, No. 1 Novak Djokovic continued his dominant play and Maria Sharapova earned the No. 2 rankings with wins at the Italian Open in Rome, Italy, one week before the French Open begins.
Novak Djokovic: Aside from nearly ending his French Open chances by demonstrating how not to open a bottle of champagne, Djokovic couldn't have asked for more last week in Rome. He worked through the early rust from skipping the Madrid Open, then sailed through to his fourth Italian Open title, beating Roger Federer fairly easily 6–4, 6–3 in the final.
He's heads into Paris on a 22-match win streak and he's won all the big ATP tournaments since October, with titles at the Paris Indoors, ATP Finals, Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo and now Rome. The scary thing for the field in Paris: He's not even playing out of his mind to do this. Djokovic's standard level leaves a fair-sized gap between himself and the field.
Maria Sharapova: Winning her third Italian Open was a great accomplishment, though the highest ranked player she had to beat all week was No. 10 Carla Suarez Navarro in the final. But the most important gain for Sharapova last week was a rankings bump to No. 2, which ensures her the No. 2 seed at the French Open. That means she won't to play Serena, if at all, until the final. That's a big boost to her chances of making her fourth straight final in Paris.
Carla Suarez Navarro: The Spaniard's remarkable season continued in Rome, where she made her third Premier final of the season. She narrowly escaped an epic third round match against Eugenie Bouchard and went on to continue her domination over Petra Kvitova—she's beaten her three times this season—and then score to big upset over No. 2 Simona Halep in the semifinals. Suarez Navarro ran out of gas in the final against Sharapova, losing the last six games of the match, but she's now up to a career-high of No. 8, thus securing her a Top 8 seed in Paris. If she gets a good draw, watch out.
Roger Federer: He didn't lose a set en route to the final, with wins over Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych, but he couldn't do much against Djokovic. The most worrying thing about Federer's game heading into Paris is his returns. In his loss to Nick Kyrgios in Madrid and to Djokovic in Rome, he's just not doing enough to get into rallies and get opportunities to break.
Daria Gavrilova: The 21-year-old Russian/Australian who ousted Sharapova from Miami earlier this spring earned her spot in the main draw via qualifying and proceeded to make her first WTA semifinal, scoring wins over Belinda Bencic, Ana Ivanovic, Timea Bacsinszky and Christina McHale before losing to Sharapova. She's now up to a career-high No. 45 and playing the best tennis of her pro career.
Thanasi Kokkinakis: The Aussie teen had to make a quick audible after a fire at the airport in Rome delayed his flight and forced him to withdraw from qualies in Rome. So he went to Bordeaux instead and picked up his first ATP Challenger title. That's good work under unexpected circumstances.
Andy Murray and Serena Williams: Smart moves from both to withdraw from the Italian Open due to fatigue (Murray) and minor injury (Serena). Neither would have gained anything by going for the title there and the time off to rest the body and mind before Paris could pay off in a big way.
Rafael Nadal: Again, the match-to-match consistency isn't there. After making the Madrid Open final and losing to Murray, Nadal made the Italian Open semifinal and lost to a slumping Stan Wawrinka. To be fair, Wawrinka played his best match in months to upend Nadal, but it's not often you'll see Nadal squander quadruple set points and lose. Nadal had a 6–2 lead in the first set tiebreaker and couldn't convert, losing 7–6(7), 6–2.
Simona Halep: Halep played in the three French Open lead-up tournaments and failed to make a single final. That's worrying for the game's best pure clay-courter. Her losses came to Caroline Wozniacki in Stuttgart, Alize Cornet in Madrid and Suarez Navarro in Rome. She was also displaced at No. 2 in the rankings by Sharapova, meaning she'll have the No. 3 seed in Paris.
Grigor Dimitrov: The Bulgarian got bageled in a third set by Fabio Fognini. That should never happen.
Sam Sumyk: Bouchard's coach continues to take off his on-court microphone during coaching timeouts. Considering the entire basis for on-court coaching is to provide additional entertainment for fans and commentators, the WTA can't keep letting this slide.
Photo of the week
Video of the week
GIF of the week
In case you missed it
- We'll just leave this here:
- Bouchard snapped her six-match losing streak with a straight set win over Zarina Diyas, only to blow numerous chances against Suarez Navarro. Bouchard served for the match three times and failed, and then with her opponent choking away match points, Bouchard double-faulted on her own match point. Still, this was a better level from Bouchard across the board. I'm a little bit surprised to see her skip this week's tournaments in Strasbourg and Nuremberg, where she was the defending champion last year. More matches against easier competition may have done wonders for her confidence ahead of Paris, where she's defending semifinal points.
- There is a new must-follow tennis Twitter account: @WTAReactions.
- The court conditions in Rome were atrocious, with Djokovic, Federer and Sharapova all voicing their concerns over uneven patches at the back of the court which were creating dangerous playing conditions. Djokovic was told the court was laid down just three weeks ago. For a tournament that has become infamous for its organizational shortcomings, just add this to the list.
- Congratulations, Tomas Berdych, you have secured the No. 4 seed in Paris.
- There's a Li Na movie under development.
- Best coach/pupil exchange goes to Wim Fissette and Victoria Azarenka during her quarterfinal match against Sharapova:
"I have no legs."— Courtney Nguyen (@FortyDeuceTwits) May 15, 2015
"Pfft. Activate them? Give me a magic stick to activate them." - Vika/Wim
- Nadal is still my favorite to win the French Open. I'm going out on a limb and I'll explain why later this week.
- Berdych as the No. 4 seed in Paris is going to add even more instability to what will almost surely be an already unstable draw.
- The French Open draw takes place on Friday. Tune in and check back for SI.com's grades, predictions and previews.
GALLERY: BEST PHOTOS FROM THE ITALIAN OPEN [FULL SIZE]