Report Card: Isner's best title run yet, Kvitova's unpredictability and more
John Isner: A. You have to respect Isner's insistence of supporting his home tournament in Winston-Salem, despite the fact that it falls the week immediately preceding the U.S. Open. The set-up works for Isner. He won the title last year and proceeded to make his best showing at the U.S. Open, where he made the quarterfinals before losing to Andy Murray. This year, after he skipped Cincinnati citing a back injury, Isner had a week that should make his confidence soar. Not only did he successfully defend his title, but he did so by scoring back-to-back wins over two Top 10 players in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals and Tomas Berdych in the final, winning each match via a third-set tiebreak. That's the best run to a title he's ever had.
Petra Kvitova: A. Playing Maria Kirilenko in the New Haven final -- a rematch of their Olympic quarterfinal that saw Kirilenko pull off the upset -- Kvitova won the first set in a protracted tiebreaker and then fell behind 2-5 to Kirilenko. Kvitova looked exhausted from five straight weeks of play, and a decisive third set seemed inevitable. At least until the Czech reeled off five straight games to win the match and claim her second hardcourt title of the summer. That's Petra for you.
Kvitova continues to be a case study in unpredictability. A year ago she could barely win a match in North America, failing to win back-to-back matches on the continent all year. This year she wins two of the three events she played (Montreal and New Haven) and captures the U.S .Open Series title. Given her form and her confidence you have to like her chances in New York, where she's been drawn in the Serena-less top-half of the draw. She could lose in the first round or she could be holding up the trophy in two weeks. Would either result really be all that surprising? Either way, her highest highs, lowest lows, and everything in between are precisely why she's one of the most entertaining players to follow on the WTA.
Maria Kirilenko: A. Let's quickly recap the incredible summer Kirilenko is having. Wimbledon quarterfinalist, Olympic semifinalist, New Haven finalist, and a tough second-round match against Venus Williams in Cincinnati. Keep an eye out for the Russian. She's projected to play Serena Williams in the fourth round of the U.S. Open.
Tomas Berdych: B. His week in Winston-Salem was looking to be precisely what he needed. Berydych has been mired in a slump since Roland Garros, but he survived a few tough tests in Winston-Salem to make the final. Whether Berdych remembers his success in making the final or the sitting forehand at the net that he choked to give Isner match point will be telling.
Sara Errani: B-minus. Errani is the WTA's answer to the ATP's Nicolas Almagro. A Top-10 player who doesn't pack much bite off clay. Errani was crushed by Kvitova in the New Haven semifinal, losing 6-1, 6-3. The scoreline makes it sound closer than it was.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: B. Got a few matches under his belt in Winston-Salem, played a highly competitive semifinal against Isner, and walked away without needing stitches. That constitutes "highly successful" in the Tsonga book.
Sam Querrey: B-plus. A title in Winston-Salem would have made him the U.S. Open Series winner, but his semifinal loss to Berdych is probably a good thing. Querrey has played five straight weeks on the North American hardcourts this summer, winning the title in Los Angeles and making the semifinals in Washington D.C. and Winston-Salem. An extra day of rest before the U.S. Open was necessary.
Caroline Wozniacki: D. Wozniacki was undefeated at the New Haven Open prior to this year, capturing four straight titles in the last four years. So if she needed any reminder that 2012 just hasn't been her year she got it last week, where she not only suffered her first loss at the tournament, but aggravated a knee injury that forced her to retire to Kirilenko in the semifinals. Her inability to defend the title means it's now been a full year since Wozniacki has won a tournament, a surprising stat considering she led the tour in titles the last two years.
Roberta Vinci: A. Vinci double-bageled Ana Ivanovic in Montreal two weeks ago and last week she double-bageled another Serb, Bojana Jovanovski in the semifinal of the Texas Tennis Open in Dallas. Who did she face in the final? Yet another Serb, Jelena Jankovic. She didn't score a double-bagel hat-trick, but she did capture her first title of the season.
Mike and Bob Bryan: A. When I spoke to Bob and Mike in Cincinnati they hinted at how busy their pre-U.S. Open week would be -- and they were right. The gold medal winning brothers were all over Manhattan last week, from an interview on Fox & Friends, to throwing out the first pitch at a Mets game, to judging karaoke contests and posing with the Nesquick Rabbit. Never underestimate how popular they are. Tremendous ambassadors for the sport of tennis and the doubles game.
NCAA: A. In light of the roaring backlash, they rescinded their proposal to play a match tiebreak instead of a proper third set. Fantastic decision, but maybe take a straw poll the next time? There wasn't a single person in favor of the match tiebreak format.
WTA: D. The new phase of the Strong is Beautiful campaign was launched last week, which included celebrity spots from the likes of Billie Jean King, Aretha Franklin, Stanley Tucci and Susan Sarandon. All great folks, all legends in their own right. And let me take a moment and say that I'm a fan of the Strong is Beautiful campaign. The way I see it, the WTA has done well to photograph the women either casually or artistically, without selling sex or reducing them down to their appearance, a trap that many fall into when selling female athletes. That message was completely undermined by the inclusion of Donald Trump in the celebrity campaign, which sparked feminist outrage and rightfully so. If you need a refresher course on what Trump has said about women in the past read up here. He may be a tennis fan and he may enjoy watching women's tennis. But when it comes to celebrating these women for what they can do on the court as opposed to what they might look like off of it, Trump is not your guy.