Report Card: Hall of Fame inductees, champions and coaches
The Report Card hands out grades for the week in tennis. This past week saw some worthy Hall of Fame inductions and two Americans grabbing titles.
Jennifer Capriati and Gustavo Kuerten: A-plus. I'm not sure you could have two more contrasting personalities or careers inducted into the International Hall of Fame on the same day, but both members of the Class of 2012 moved the crowd to tears as they gave humble, honest, heartfelt induction speeches. For Kuerten it was a day of joy, a time to reflect on what tennis gave him and how much he was indebted to the sport. Introduced by his mother and speaking without notes, Kuerten's indelible child-like grin and quivering lip said everything you needed to know about the man they call "Guga". He was all heart, joy, and emotion as a player and that continues to be the case today.
As for Capriati, her relationship with tennis has been a more tumultuous one, so it seemed surreal -- yet pitch-perfect -- to see her introduced by Monica Seles. While Guga spoke of his tennis with a buoyant charm, Capriati, who was clearly overwhelmed and humbled by Saturday's honor, spoke of having to overcome her tennis to find peace. "It was tough having to leave the game," she said. "It's like mourning a loved one that's gone and a relationship's that gone, a part of yourself. It wasn't easy, but something that's gone and what you loved to do. It took a while to accept that and let go."
Capriati acknowledged the twists and turns of her life both on an "I don't need to be on a tennis court to know who I am." For many Capriati fans, that was all they needed to hear.
Serena Williams: B-plus. Huge credit to Serena for not leaving the Bank of the West Classic hanging. Just after her Wimbledon triumph, she was on a plane flying all the way back to California. She was rewarded by a successful defense of her title, a 12-match win streak, and a stuffed bear. She didn't have to play anyone in the top 40 and her form never hit its peak through the week but Serena did what all Champions know how to do: she played well enough to win.
Coco Vandeweghe: A. Coco went into Stanford ranked No. 120 in the world and she lost in the last round of qualifying. But thanks to a number of main draw withdrawals, she was into the main draw and proceeded to knock off Jelena Jankovic, Urszula Radwanska and Yanina Wickmayer to make her first WTA final, and actually served for the set (and had a set point) against Serena in the final. Her serve was booming through the week (she topped out at 120 mph) and she was surprisingly consistent off the ground, a significant improvement from where she was last year. Her performance pushed her ranking inside the top 70 and guaranteed her a main draw spot at the U.S. Open. Nice work.
On-court coaching: D. I typically don't mind on-court coaching. But the issue gets complicated when your coach is a parent. For those who criticize the WTA's on-court coaching experiment as demeaning to female professional athletes, let's not even talk about what it looks like when that coach is a parent. Whether it's Piotr Wozniacki's lectures to Caroline or Tauna Vandeweghe's "I love you, keep your chin up" talks to Coco, in both situations their kid ended up looking like... kids.
John Isner: A. For the first time in his career, Big John successfully defended a title, beating Lleyton Hewitt 7-6, 6-4 in the final of Newport. Confidence booster? We'll see. He's off to play Atlanta this week.
Marin Cilic: A. Who doesn't love winning their home tournament? Cilic finally did, winning Umag, making him the first Croat to win the tournament since 1990, beating Marcel Granollers of Spain 6-4, 6-2 in the final.
Janko Tipsarevic: B. Yikes, that was close. Tipsarevic was up 6-4, 4-1 on Juan Monaco in the Stuttgart final before a rain delay completely knocked him off his game. Monaco stormed back to force a third set. But the Serb eventually settled himself to win 6-4, 5-7, 6-3, to capture his first career title on clay.
David Ferrer: A. At 30 years old, Ferrer is having a career season, capturing his fifth title of the year in Bastad by beating No. 10 Nicolas Almagro with ease. Ferrer hasn't lost to anyone outside of the top four since Monte Carlo.
Sara Errani: A. With her win in Palermo, Errani became the first Italian to win four WTA titles in a season. Nice to see her still winning after her final run at the French Open. No one wants to see her disappear.
Jelena Jankovic: D. After only a few months working together, Jankovic has split ways with coach Zeljko Krajan, and reunited with Diego Ayala. The result, Jankovic's 11th loss in her first match of a tournament in 2012.
Laura Robson: A. Robson scored her biggest win on paper, beating No. 27 Roberta Vinci and eventually advancing to her first WTA semifinal in Palermo. The weirdest thing about it all: Palermo is on clay. Hey, if Petra Kvitova can win on clay there's no reason Robson can't. Much like Vandeweghe, her deep run pushes her ranking up to a career-high No. 91 (youngest in the top 100 at 18 years old), which means she's gained direct entry into the U.S. Open main draw.
Grigor Dimitrov: B-plus. Man, the kids sure ate their Wheaties last week. Dimitrov looks to be on the up and up as he made his second ATP semifinal of the year in Bastad before losing to eventual champion David Ferrer.
Sorana Cirstea: B-minus. She showed tremendous fight, guts and game in her three-set win over Dominika Cibulkova, overcoming a series of bad line calls to pound her way to a win. Then, 24 hours later, she stepped on court against Serena Williams and left everyone ducking as she sprayed the ball every which way but in. It was an embarrassing performance to cap off an otherwise solid week.
Lleyton Hewitt: A. As a wildcard, Hewitt made his first ATP final since 2010, where he lost to John Isner at Newport. But if there are any doubts as to why Hewitt, who came into the match undefeated in grass court finals, got a wildcard into the Olympics to play on Wimbledon grass, his Newport performance silenced them. Bernard Tomic: D. As I write this, Tomic just lost to Benoit Paire 6-0, 6-4 in Gstaad. Last week he lost in his first match in Stuttgart to Thomaz Bellucci. He's now on a four match losing streak and hasn't gone past the second round in nine straight tournaments dating back to April.