Report Card: Rogers Cup grades
The Report Card hands out grades for the week in tennis. This week wraps up the Rogers Cup in Canada, where rain wreaked havoc but couldn't stop Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova from coming out on top.
Novak Djokovic: A. On Friday, I wondered what the heck was going on with Djokovic, who had not won a title since Miami in April. Then he goes and romps through a depleted field in Toronto, where his primary obstacle was the uncooperative Canadian weather, which forced the players to sit around all day in hopes of getting on the court. A frustrated Djokovic had to play both his fourth-round and quarterfinal matches in one day, beating Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-4 and needing two-and-a-half hours to fend off a resurgent Tommy Haas 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. The victory was the Serb's third Rogers Cup title and second straight hard-court Masters shield, which makes you wonder if his three-month "slump" on clay and grass had more to do with the surface than the psyche. We won't know for sure until he goes up against stiffer competition, i.e., this week in Cincinnati, but the win in Toronto (where he saved 25 of 26 break points) is exactly what he needed.
Petra Kvitova: A. North America has always been Kvitova's kryptonite. She's failed to make it past the third round of any outdoor North American tournament since the U.S. Open in 2009 and the early-round losses haven't been pretty. So leave it to one of the WTA's most unpredictable players to get her first title of 2012 not on grass, clay or indoors, but on the hard courts of Canada. Kvitova edged Li Na 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 in an intense and highly competitive final on Monday night. Is this the breakthrough win that Kvitova needed to jump-start a season in which she has been the only player to reach the quarterfinals of all three Slams and the Olympics but has fallen far short of her ridiculous 2011, when she won her first major and tied for the tour lead with six titles (including one on every surface)? When Kvitova gets on a run, she can roll. Her Montreal title instantly makes her a U.S. Open contender.
Li Na: A-minus. Li made her third Premier final of the year and once again fell short, this time to Kvitova. But to advance to the final, Li dispatched Sara Errani and Agnieszka Radwanska, and then came back from 1-5 down in the third set against Lucie Safarova. Those are confidence-building wins for Li. When Kvitova is hitting the snot out of the ball and painting lines, there's not a whole lot anyone can do. But up until the very end of the match, Li stood her ground, absorbing Kvitova's pace and wowing the crowd with some high-quality shot-making of her own.
Richard Gasquet: A-minus. Djokovic blitzed him 6-3, 6-2 in the final, but it was a stellar week for the Frenchman. With a reputation for going soft in big matches, Gasquet handled the adversity brought on by the infuriating rain delays to defeat Tomas Berdych, Mardy Fish and John Isner. That's three wins over three solid hard-courters for Gasquet, who climbed from 21st to 13th in the rankings.
Caroline Wozniacki: C-minus. Unlike her famous golfing boyfriend, Rory McIlroy, Woz couldn't snap her title-less streak in Montreal, falling to Kvitova 3-6 6-2 6-3 in the semifinals. At first blush, the semifinal run itself is a positive sign, but she didn't beat anyone inside the top 30 to get there. For all the talk about her new partnership with Thomas Johansson, once again it was her father, Piotr, who served as her on-court coach. Is this really the same player who was No. 1 at the start of the year and matched Kvitova last season with six titles (including five Premier-level)? She looks lost out there.
Lucie Safarova: B-minus. Lucie, Lucie, Lucie. The Czech was one game away from her second Premier final of the season when she served for the match at 5-1 against Li Na in the third set. She proceeded to lose six straight games.
John Isner: B. Slowly but surely, Isner has found his game again, making his second Masters semifinal of the year. His 7-6 (3), 6-3 defeat to Gasquet was a slight disappointment, but there's no shame in losing to the Frenchman when he's in form, which he was on that day.
Mardy Fish: B. Fish finally got his first top 10 win of the season, rallying past Juan Monaco 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 on his way to the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, his inability to defend his final points from last year means that he's tumbled to No. 20.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: B-minus. Kudos for showing up to Toronto after a grueling Olympics. Not-so-kudos for running into a fire hydrant (literally) and requiring eight stitches on your knee. That's one way to get out of playing Cincinnati.
Andy Murray, Victoria Azarenka: B. The Olympic gold medalists kept their commitments and showed up in Toronto and Montreal, respectively. They both won a match and then withdrew. [Correction: Azarenka withdrew during the first set of her rain-delayed match.] In any other context that would be grounds for some mild criticism, but given the compacted schedule due to the London Games, I say cut them some slack. Azarenka will have two-and-a-half weeks off before the U.S. Open, while Murray is in Cincinnati trying to defend his title.
Team Canada, Ladies Division: B-plus. Well done to Aleksandra Wozniak and Eugenie Bouchard for a fine showing at home in Montreal. Wozniak became the first Canadian woman to make the Rogers Cup quarterfinals in 20 years, with big wins over Daniela Hantuchova, Jelena Jankovic and Christina McHale. Meanwhile, junior Wimbledon champion Bouchard got her first Rogers Cup win, over Shahar Peer, and then pushed Li in the second round, eventually losing 6-4, 6-4. Keep an eye on the 18-year-old Bouchard.
Team Canada, Men's Division: C-minus. Milos Raonic is an exciting player with a big game, precisely the kind of guy who can reinvigorate tennis in Canada. They've already named the grandstand court at the Rexall Center after him and he had a tremendous chance to make his first Masters final in his hometown of Toronto. He couldn't deliver. He lost to Isner 7-6 (9), 6-4 in the quarterfinals, an odd match in which Raonic somehow was unable to use his serve with much efficacy. Still waiting for that breakthrough win, Milos. Roberta Vinci: B. I can't explain Vinci's love for Canada, but she's now had back-to-back quarterfinal runs there. The 29-year-old from Italy did it in style this year, notching a shocking double-bagel win over Ana Ivanovic in the second round and then ousting Angelique Kerber in straight sets.