Report Card: Roger Federer wins Dubai
The Report Card hands out grades for the best and worst from the week of tennis. This week, the focus is on Roger Federer's win in Dubai, struggling Americans in Delray Beach and looking at form as both Tours head to Indian Wells.
Roger Federer won his second title of the year, beating Andy Murray in the Dubai Championships. (Ali Haider/EPA)
Roger Federer: A. The Swiss Maestro won his 72nd ATP title, fifth in Dubai and second title in three weeks. He's won five of his last seven ATP Tour events and he's 16-2 on the year. Coming out of the post-Australian Open swing, he's the man who's surging. So what are we to make of it all? Is Roger "back" or are his recent numbers inflated given the fact that his last five ATP tour wins have been on quick hard courts? Put aside his lengthy resume. Right now Federer is in the same position as Murray in my mind: Show us you can win the big tournaments and then we'll talk.
Sara Errani: A. Errani beat the top two seeds (and her countrywomen) on the way to winning the title in Acapulco. She took down top-seeded Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals and second-seeded Flavia Pennetta 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-0 in the final. What's more, Errani then teamed up with Vinci to take the doubles title as well, becoming the first woman to sweep both events at a WTA tournament since April 2010.
The Italian has had a strong start to 2012, making the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and the semifinals of Monterrey, where she lost to eventual champion Timea Babos. Further proof of consistency? She's No. 6 in the Race to the WTA Championships rankings. All in all, it's been a good year so far for the Italians not named Francesca Schiavone.
Kevin Anderson: A. The 6-foot-8 South African is often overlooked in discussions of the most dangerous big serving big men on the ATP (Milos Raonic, John Isner and Ivo Karlovic usually get the nod), but his second career title at Delray Beach might be enough to reopen that discussion. If you beat Andy Roddick and John Isner in the course of a week, you've made a pretty darn good case for yourself.
Anderson saved three match points against Roddick in the quarterfinals, winning 2-6, 7-6 (9), 6-4, and then stood toe to toe with Isner in the semifinals in a 7-5, 7-6 (4) win. He had a much easier task in the final against surprise finalist Marinko Matosevic, but overcame the tricky wind on his way to a 6-4, 7-6 (2) win. Anderson has now climbed up to No. 30 and could be a dangerous floater this week in Indian Wells.
David Ferrer: A. Fresh on the heels of his second title run of 2012 in Buenos Aires, Ferrer became the first man to win three titles this year with his 6-1, 6-2 drubbing of Fernando Verdasco in Acapulco. Ferrer wasn't always at his best in Acapulco, but his relentless attack and fight helped him battle through any issues with his form. The Spaniard is back in the top five, ending Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's brief stay, and has quietly built an 18-1 record on the year (the only loss coming from Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open). He's currently riding a 10-match win streak, though all on clay.
Hsieh Su-Wei: B-plus. Rain wreaked havoc on the tournament in Kuala Lumpur and Hsieh was, literally, the last woman standing. Ranked No. 123 heading into the tournament, Hsieh came through qualifying and benefited from a walkover from Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals and was up 2-6, 7-5, 4-1 in the final before Petra Martic retired as well. In her first WTA title, Hsieh became the first Asian woman to win Kuala Lumpur and only the second woman from Chinese Taipei to win a title (Wang Shi-Ting won six WTA titles in the 1990s).
It took some good luck to get there (her semifinal was completed on Saturday, while Martic had to play both semifinal and final on Sunday) but overall, Hsieh has been surging. As a qualifier she also made the semifinal of Pattaya City and amassed a 12-1 record through her last two tournaments.
Andy Murray: B-plus. Did Andy Murray turn a corner with his straight set win over Djokovic in the Dubai semifinals? We'll see. The good news is that he doesn't appear to be headed for a post-Australian Open malaise a la 2011. The bad news is that we already knew Murray could take two sets off Djokovic. He did it in January.
Fernando Verdasco: B. As I wrote last week, Verdasco has been mired in a horrible slump for some time now. But he finally won two matches against quality opponents, ousting Nicolas Almagro and Stanislas Wawrinka on his way to the Acapulco final, playing some of his best tennis of the past year. Then he got spanked off the court by Ferrer, losing 6-1, 6-2 in the final. There's no shame in losing to Ferrer on clay, but after Verdasco's boost in quality over the week, I expected more from him in that final.
Marinko Matosevic: A. The 26-year-old Australian qualifier had never won back-to-back ATP Tour level matches before last week (not counting qualies). In fact he had only won three Tour matches in his career. But after winning a Challenger event in Caloundra, Australia, in early February, Matosevic got some confidence. Ranked No. 173, he worked his way through qualifying in Delray Beach and then beat Ivo Karlovic, Alex Bogomolov Jr., Ernests Gulbis, and Dudi Sela to make the final. That's a good four weeks for a guy who has lived in the Challenger circuit for his career.
Americans in Delray: D. It was another unexpectedly bad week for the American men, this time in Delray Beach. Andy Roddick's serve let him down against Kevin Anderson in the quarterfinals, where he failed to convert three match points and let the South African off the hook. The Bryan Brothers lost in the quarterfinals to Karlovic and Frank Moser, the same team they lost to in the first round of the 2011 U.S Open, and then had a bit of a kerfuffle afterward. Details of the incident are still unclear, but this picture courtesy of @ChampingTheBit on Twitter makes the scene look tense, to say the least.
Perhaps most disappointing was John Isner, who hasn't been able to back up his big Davis Cup win. A week earlier he lost to Jurgen Melzer in the quarterfinals of Memphis. In Delray Beach he was felled by Kevin Anderson in the semis. Both men went on to win the titles so the question surrounding Isner is this: Has he just been coming up big against hot players? I'm not sure, but expect to get another look at a deep field in Indian Wells. Kuala Lumpur: D. The tournament had to beg and plead to get some top players into its field and snagged Radwanska and Jelena Jankovic with wildcards at the eleventh hour. With the spring hardcourt season coming up in Indian Wells and Miami, those two might be second-guessing their decision to jet to Malaysia from Dubai to play a tournament that was drenched in rain. Rain delays resulted in players having to play two matches a day, which took its toll. Radwanska wisely pulled the ripcord before her quarterfinal and withdrew from the tournament, but you have to feel for Petra Martic. She had to play her semifinal (a three-hour grinding win over Jankovic) and then play the final on the same day. Playing in her sixth set of the day, Martic's body began to cramp and she was forced to retire.