Monday November 14th, 2011

Roger Federer heads into the ATP World Tour Finals on a 12-match winning streak. (SIPA)

The Report Card hands out grades for the best and worst from the week in tennis.

Roger Federer: A. Ah, irony. Federer had never won a Bercy title entering this year's Paris Masters; in fact, he had never even made a final, an odd stat considering the historically quick courts would seem to favor the Swiss' aggressive game. So this year the organizers decide to slow down the courts ... and Federer marches to victory without dropping a set, extending his winning streak to 12 entering next week's ATP World Tour Finals in London.

That's back-to-back titles for the world No. 4, who beat his Wimbledon vanquisher, Jo Wilfried Tsonga, 6-1, 7-6 (3) in the final by hitting shots like this. He was able to do it after being awakened at 4 a.m. the morning of the final by one of his 2-year-old twin daughters, who was under the weather.

"Mirka told me, 'All right, we're taking her in our bed,' '' Federer said with a laugh, according to The New York Times. "I didn't even argue. I took her in the bed. You especially don't want to have an argument at 4 in the morning."

Wise decision-making both on and off the court, Roger.

John Isner: A-minus. It's been a quietly tough year for Isner, full of "close but no cigar" moments. He has dropped seven matches in decisive third-set tiebreaks, and he also lost 9-7 in the fifth set to Marin Cilic in the Australian Open third round and 6-4 in the fifth set to Rafael Nadal in the French Open first round.

So it was great to see the big man put together a strong run in Bercy, knocking off Stan Wawrinka, Feliciano Lopez and David Ferrer en route to the semifinals, where the 26-year-old American suffered another one of those agonizing losses. Isner squandered three match points and fell to Tsonga 6-3, 6-7 (1), 6-7 (3). Nevertheless, it was Isner's best performance at a Masters event by far (he had never made a quarterfinal before, let alone a semifinal), and it means that he'll probably finish the year matching his career-high ranking at No. 18.

Tomas Berdych: B-plus. Going into Paris, I'm not sure many people really understood how Berdych was on the verge of qualifying for London. He's been off the radar for most of the year and failed to bring his best on the big stages. But his three-hour duel with Andy Murray in the quarterfinals last week reminded me of how dangerous he can be when he's on. There was some tremendous shotmaking in Berdych's 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory. Berdych yanked Murray all over the court with his devastating forehand, ensuring that the Scot, who came in with 17 consecutive victories, would be taking his post-match meal in an ice bath, if not sleeping in it.

If Berdych, 26, can take that form into London, we have ourselves a ballgame. If he brings his new 19-year-old model girlfriend to London, we have ourselves some entertainment. Poor Ester Satarova clearly isn't used to the tennis WAG life. She could not control her stress as she watched her man miss forehands at key moments. Don't worry, Ester, it happens. You'll get used to it. We all have.

Paris/Bercy: C-minus. The tournament had tremendous turnout, and by all accounts was a huge success. But I'm still lamenting the decision to slow down the courts. There's something that just seems right about a shootout in the final tournament of the year for most players. The guys are all hobbled and exhausted anyway. Let them try to serve-and-volley their way to the title. Why not?

State of the London Eight: D-plus. After last week's events in Paris, I'm not sure what to reasonably expect in London next week. Novak Djokovic withdrew before his quarterfinal match with Tsonga, citing his shoulder injury, but who knows if that was a medical move or a strategic decision to rest up before the World Tour Finals. Mardy Fish was forced to retire from his second straight tournament with a leg injury that leaves his chances in London at the bottom of the Thames. And then, of course, there's Rafael Nadal (remember him?), who has been off since a round-of-16 loss to Florian Mayer at the Shanghai Masters a month ago. Those developments, combined with the always-erratic Berdych and Tsonga, mean that Federer (who's fighting a case of the sniffles) and Murray may just end up being the last men standing. Not that I'm complaining. The O2 would be an incredible venue for that showdown.

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