Report Card: Tsonga closing in on Tour Finals
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won his sixth career ATP World Tour title after defeating Ivan Ljubicic at the Moselle Open. (AP)
Welcome to the inaugural "Report Card," a weekly post handing out grades for the best and worst from the week in tennis.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: A. Tsonga did himself a huge favor by winning the title in Metz, France, defeating Ivan Ljubicic, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 in a dicey two and a half hours on Sunday. Not only did Tsonga collect his first title since 2009, but he also improved his chances of qualifying for the World Tour Finals in London.
He's No. 7 in the race with four spots still available. With Robin Soderling still recovering from mono and withdrawing from the Asian tournaments, and David Ferrer solidly in the No. 5 spot, it looks like it will be a battle between Tsonga, Mardy Fish, Nicolas Almagro, Juan Martin del Potro, Gilles Simon and Tomas Berdych for the remaining three spots. Who wouldn't want to see the high-octane Frenchman under the lights at the O2 Arena come November?
Li Na: F. I hate to mix my sports metaphors (no, I don't), but I'm giving Li a straight-up red card for this comment she made last week: "All the active women tennis players have the same situation of ups and downs in the competitions, almost everyone. Because women cannot have the same mentality of men, who expect to win every competition. We are very easy to be satisfied after winning a championship and we like to leave some time for self-adjustment."
Li is more than welcome to speak for herself. But when she starts trying to speak for all womankind, just put down the microphone and slowly back away. You're hurting the cause, girl.
First-timers: A. It was quite a week of firsts on both Tours. Florian Mayer won his first career title, beating Pablo Andujar 6-3, 6-1 in the final in Bucharest, Romania. The victory for the 24th-ranked Mayer leaves No. 17 Janko Tipsarevic as the only top-30 player without a title.
On the women's side, Chanelle Scheepers picked up her first title with a roller-coaster of a ride in Guangzhou, China. Scheepers did it the hard way, playing three-set matches -- and saving some match points -- all the way until the final, where she downed Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2, 6-2. The 27-year-old became the first South African to win a title since Amanda Coetzer in 2003.
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez's title in Seoul wasn't her first, but it was her first one on hardcourts (she's won four on clay), snapping a five-and-a-half-year drought for Spanish women on hardcourts. With most of the top players taking a breather last week, good on these folks for seizing their opportunity.
Strike talk: D. In elaborating on Rafael Nadal's complaints about the tennis schedule and thoughts of a potential player strike, Andy Murray quickly became the lightning rod for the negativity and eye-rolling that ensued throughout the week. That said, I think we've all got it out of our systems and we can move on now, right?
The players will convene and talk it out in Shanghai. Until then, can we all go on strike against the strike talk? It's exhausting and until the players figure out where they stand collectively (to the extent there can be a "collectively"), the speculation and theorizing seems futile.
Giving back: A-plus. Tennis never seems to hesitate when it comes to responding to natural disasters, whether it was organizing Hit for Haiti, Rally 4 Relief or charity soccer matches in Miami. It's a credit to the generosity of the players but also the international scope of the Tours that so many players are sensitive enough to reach out to help those in need. So while the ladies seem to be having a blast in Tokyo, hula hooping, doing some early Halloween costume shopping and befriending the locals, they're also taking time to raise funds for the disaster relief efforts stemming from the devastating earthquakes and tsunami in March. While the women were taking their charity efforts international, Andy Roddick hosted his annual Andy Roddick Foundation Charity Gala last week, which raised more than $1 million for various children's organizations. Good warm and fuzzies all around.