Tuesday April 3rd, 2012

Andy Roddick

Andy Roddick scored a career win over Roger Federer in Miami, but then tumbled out to Juan Monaco. (Getty Images)

Quite a bit of ink has been devoted to Sony Ericsson Open champions Novak Djokovic and Agnieszka Radwanska (here are my thoughts from the weekend), both of whom clearly deserve top marks. But what about the rest of the field? Here's a look at some of the players who made some waves, for better or for worse.

Rafael Nadal: B-minus. There's a reason why Rafa's knees have their own Twitter account. Tendinitis forced him to withdraw before his semifinal match against Andy Murray, and Nadal will have to scramble to get ready for his massive clay season, which starts in Monte Carlo in two weeks. He insisted that he didn't withdraw in order to protect his body for clay, where he's defending 4,700 points. "Yes, I want to arrive to the clay court with the right conditions," Nadal said after he withdrew, "but I want to arrive here with the right conditions. So I am not thinking, 'I am not going on court today not because I have the clay-court season.'  I am not going on court today because I cannot go on court today."

Andy Roddick: A-minus. You can't blame Roddick for being unable to back up his emotional win over Roger Federer in the third round. After losing to Juan Monaco 7-5, 6-0, Roddick admitted that he was out of shape. Now it's back to getting his body into match form. He moved as well as we've seen him move against Federer, which means his confidence in his snake-bitten body must be on the rise.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: B-minus. Between accusing umpires of favoritism and playing an almost-unwatchable set and a half against Nadal in the quarterfinals, Tsonga had a rough week. Nadal was his for the taking and Tsonga just couldn't get out of his own way. Will he ever become stable enough to do more than just pull off the occasional upset at the Slams? Wait, don't answer that.

Grigor Dimitrov: B-plus. The talented but arguably underachieving Bulgarian notched the first top 10 win of his career when he played through back pain to outlast Tomas Berdych in the second round. I like it when Dimitrov wins because it gives me more opportunities to watch him play. Unfortunately, I'm beginning to wonder if his backhand is going to hold him back. It's a pretty shot, but not necessarily a dangerous one. Yet.

Mardy Fish: B-minus. It's hard to understand how Fish could show up to Stadium Court and play so badly against Monaco in his 6-1, 6-3 loss in the quarterfinals. Monaco played well, for sure, but Fish couldn't find the court for much of the match, and it's hard to watch the 30-year-old American struggle and get so negative on the court these days. On Monday, we learned that he's suffering from excessive fatigue, which his doctors attribute to his taxing early 2012 schedule. He's undoubtedly played a lot of tournaments (Hopman Cup, Kooyong, Australian Open, Davis Cup first round, Marseille, Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami), but he's also played only 12 matches in three months. Here's hoping the fatigue takes care of itself quickly and isn't something more serious.

John Isner: D-plus. Easy come, easy go. After his run to the Indian Wells final, Isner was dumped in the third round by Florian Mayer 6-4, 6-2. Mayer is crafty, but crafty enough to break Isner three times in nine service games? As a result, Isner dropped back out of the top 10.

David Ferrer: A-minus. Firmly shut out of the top four, all Ferrer can do is remind everyone why he's sat so comfortably at that No. 5 position for most of the last seven months. He put on a master-class performance in cutting down Juan Martin del Potro in the fourth round, running the Argentine ragged until he looked like he wanted to tap out of the match. It was a great reminder of what Ferrer can do when he combines his defensive abilities with a more aggressive mindset to dictate points.

Juan Monaco: A-plus. Who saw this one coming? Monaco beat Gael Monfils, Roddick and Fish in succession, and then broke Djokovic while he was serving for the match to eventually force a tiebreaker. Given his penchant for wearing his emotions on his sleeve (and all over his face), the fan favorite has always been fun to watch. Now can he ride the wave of confidence through his beloved clay?

Fernando Gonzalez: A-plus. How do you give a guy who double-faulted to lose his first-round match an A-plus? When he's Fernando Gonzalez, who ushered in retirement the same way he played the game: by living on the edge.

Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek: A. They took out the Bryans in an Australian Open final rematch, went on to win the tournament and then did their best Patrick Swayze/Jennifer Grey impression.

The Bryans: Thwarted by their 2012 nemesis, the Paes/Stepanek team, the bros are still without a title since Sydney.

Maria Sharapova: B-plus. She's No. 2 in the world, made three finals out of four tournaments played in 2012 and reached back-to-back finals in Indian Wells and Miami. And yet it's a credit to what we've come to expect of Sharapova that her 2012 has an underachieving feel so far. The win over Caroline Wozniacki felt big and she was able to fight through some bad patches of play throughout the week. But I can't help but hum this song every time she loses finals against the next generation. The kids are indeed coming up from behind.

Caroline Wozniacki: B-plus. Someone please get a DVD of her straight-set win over Serena Williams and FedEx it to Caroline. Maybe facing someone whom she knows she can't possibly beat playing her typical game is what forced the tactical changes that were so effective against Serena, but then Wozniacki reverted to her old self against Sharapova in the semifinal. Wozniacki needs to do what Murray has done under coach Ivan Lendl: Commit to a more aggressive game plan and use it consistently against everyone.

Serena Williams: B. A quarterfinal appearance after her post-Australian Open break is respectable, but her lack of tournament play clearly caught up to her against Wozniacki. It's good to see her enter Charleston right away to keep getting matches under her belt. The serve is there and the power is still there. It's the footwork that needs to be addressed.

Victoria Azarenka: B-minus. The top-ranked Azarenka squeaked out of her match against Dominika Cibulkova after trailing 1-6, 1-5, but her luck for narrow escapes finally ran out against Marion Bartoli. The Frenchwoman took their quarterfinal match by the throat and never let go. Azarenka's demeanor after she lost wasn't exactly gracious (she barely looked Bartoli in the eye), but then again that ruthless competitiveness is what got her to 26-0 in the first place. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Marion Bartoli: B-plus. All I could think while Bartoli was whipping winners all over the court against Azarenka was, "Really? This woman isn't being allowed to play for her country at the Olympics?" Put simply, that's stupid.

Venus Williams: A-plus. That Venus was able to make you forget she's battling an autoimmune disorder that kept her out of competition for more than six months tells you how convincing she looked in Miami. Sure, she had a hiccup against Alexandra Wozniak in the third round, but the way she beat Petra Kvitova and Ana Ivanovic was superb. If she can learn how to manage her recovery between matches, the summer months in England will be very, very interesting.

Alisa Kleybanova: A-plus. Kleybanova won the minute she stepped on the Grandstand for her first match since being diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. She fought her way to a three-set win against Johanna Larsson and then pushed Maria Kirilenko to a tiebreaker before losing 7-6 (1), 6-3 in the second round. Incredible stuff from both her and Venus in their comebacks.

Garbine Muguruza Blanco: A. Keep an eye on this 18-year-old Spaniard. At first, I thought she got the main-draw wild card due to being an IMG client (IMG owns the Sony Ericsson Open), but then she ran through qualifying and upset two seeds to make the fourth round, where she lost to the eventual champion. In fact, a week before Miami, she won the $25,000 Clearwater event as a qualifier. Something good could be brewing here. Kim Clijsters: D-plus. I almost forgot she was even there. Is Clijsters' body going to stop her from getting the send-off she deserves?

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