Report Card: Indian Wells grades
The Report Card hands out grades for the week in tennis. Here is a wrap-up of the BNP Paribas Open, where Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova won titles.
Rafael Nadal: A-plus. The best thing about Nadal's storming through the draw to win his first hard-court title since 2010? We no longer have to spend the energy wondering if he can play at his pre-injury level. He can, and that's just good news for tennis.
Maria Sharapova: A. Sharapova was in good spirits throughout Indian Wells and it showed in her focused but relaxed play. She didn't drop a set and walked away with her first title since the French Open last year, blasting Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-2 in the final. She obviously didn't have to face her nemeses, Serena Williams or Victoria Azarenka, but the new No. 2 took care of business. After Azarenka humiliated her 6-2, 6-3 in the final on the same court last year, it was a nice bit of redemption.
Bob and Mike Bryan: A-plus. The brothers finally captured the title that has eluded them for so long, winning the BNP Paribas Open for the first time by defeating Treat Huey and Jerzy Janowicz 6-3, 3-6, 10-6. The twins are 20-2 with four titles this year.
Caroline Wozniacki: B-plus. It was a good tournament for Wozniacki, who defeated Nadia Petrova and Angelique Kerber and benefited from Azarenka's withdrawal. Notwithstanding two bad first-round losses, the former No. 1 has played solidly this season and put aside any concerns about a continued free fall in the rankings. She has climbed one spot to No. 9 this week. But the way Sharapova dismissed the Dane in the final makes you wonder if she'll be able to crack the top five this year. Always vulnerable to big hitters on form, Wozniacki admitted that she had no answers for Sharapova's aggression.
Juan Martin del Potro: A-plus. When Del Potro made good on his potential and beat Roger Federer and Nadal on his way to the 2009 U.S. Open title, he became the best bet to break up the oligopoly at the top of the men's game. A right wrist injury snuffed out those hopes, but with his performance in Indian Wells (where he defeated Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic and took Nadal to three sets), is it too soon to say the big man is back? I hope not.
Novak Djokovic: B. The Serb's 22-match winning streak ended after he failed to hold off Del Potro in the semifinals, as the Argentine came back from a 0-3 deficit in the third set. Asked to explain the blip, a frustrated Djokovic shrugged it off. "I just I didn't deserve to win," he said after the 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 loss. "Whenever I had chances, second, third set, I throw them away with some unforced errors. My movement was poor, and I congratulate my opponent."
Andy Murray: B-minus. Well, he didn't lose in the opening round, so that's progress! Murray had a chance to overtake Federer for the No. 2 ranking if he made the final but was stopped dead in his tracks by Del Potro in the quarterfinals. On the whole it was a scratchy tournament from Murray, who showed some serious signs of rust in his first event since the Australian Open.
Sam Querrey: B. Is Querrey the most laid-back American No. 1 ever? It's possible. The California native's run to the fourth round (where he lost to Djokovic) ensured that an American would still be in the top 20 when the new rankings debuted Monday. (Querrey moved up from No. 23 to No. 20, while John Isner fell from No. 15 to No. 23 after an opening-round loss to Lleyton Hewitt.) But is Querrey ready for the spotlight of being the top American? The jury's out on this one.
Sloane Stephens: D. It's time to dial back the Stephens expectations to "Wait and See." The Australian Open semifinalist lost her opening-round match for the second tournament in a row, this time to Urszula Radwanska. Stephens says she's going through a transition phase after her breakthrough in Melbroune and learning to deal with the attention and expectations. So let's give her some room to breathe.
David Ferrer: D-plus. A few days after getting the confidence beaten out of him by a 6-0, 6-2 loss to Nadal in Mexico, Ferrer lost to Kevin Anderson 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in his first match in Indian Wells. How long will that Acapulco hangover last?
Roger Federer: B-minus. It wasn't the first quarter of the season Federer was hoping for, as the Swiss great was unable to replicate his success from a year ago when he won titles in Rotterdam, Dubai and Indian Wells. In fact, he hasn't made a final yet in 2013. But setting results aside, he deserves a lot of credit for his willingness to step on the court to take on Nadal when he knew his movement was severely compromised by a back injury.
Kevin Anderson: B-plus. Great to see the University of Illinois alum bounce back so quickly after elbow surgery in February. He won three-setters against Ferrer and Gilles Simon to make just his second ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal before losing to Tomas Berdych. His is a name to keep an eye on in the draw. He's had a fantastic start to the season.
Maria Kirilenko: A-plus. The 26-year-old Russian is more than just a "dangerous journeywoman" now, using a renewed focus on singles to transform herself into a legitimate top-10 threat. Now ranked No. 13, Kirilenko beat back-to-back top-10 players in Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska to make the semifinals. There's so much to like about Kirilenko's solid game. Her speed allows her to play defense, her willingness to hug the baseline provides an aggressive mindset, and her variety and willingness to come to the net keeps her opponents off balance.
Petra Kvitova: B. In the grand scheme of things, Kvitova showed great progress with a quarterfinal appearance, because she has always struggled in the North American heat. In fact, it was her first career quarterfinal in either Indian Wells or Miami. She couldn't overcome Kirilenko's consistency, and the slow hard courts don't favor her game. But if she can match this result in Miami, she would be able to look at this two-tournament swing as a success.
Sara Errani: B. Errani continues to impress with a strong hard-court season. She hasn't drifted away at all and has even shown signs of improvement over last year. She played incredibly well to beat Marion Bartoli 6-3, 6-2 and had Sharapova on a string in the tense first set of their quarterfinal, losing 7-6 (6), 6-2. All in all, she's living up to her ranking this season.
Ernests Gulbis: A. Nadal snapped his 13-match winning streak in the fourth round, but he'll head to clay brimming with confidence (not that the guy ever needed help in that department). After beginning the year ranked No. 136, Gulbis is up to No. 55, his highest spot since the fall of 2011.
Jamie Hampton: B. Trivia question: Who was the last American woman standing at Indian Wells? Alabama's own Jamie Hampton. She had a good win in the second round over No. 20 Hsieh Su-Wei but fell short against Urszula Radwanska in the third round. Still, I enjoy watching her jockish game. She can hit big off her forehand and isn't afraid to come to the net. If her back holds up, the 68th-ranked Hampton is poised to finish the year in the top 40.
Tommy Haas: A-minus. Kimiko Date-Krumm, 42, has some competition in the "ageless wonder" category. A year ago, Haas was ranked No. 145. Now, the 34-year-old is ranked No. 18 after edging Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (2) in the third round. Haas saved a match point on Almagro's serve in that victory.
Mallory Burdette: B-plus. She was in Indian Wells without a coach and left to her own devices to find hitting partners and schedule her practice courts, but Burdette worked her way through qualifying to make the third round, where she lost in three sets to Kirilenko. In just a few months into her first professional season, the 22-year-old American has already raised her ranking to No. 104.
Ana Ivanovic: D. This was a surprisingly flat performance from Ivanovic, who was defending semifinal points in a tournament at which she traditionally plays well. After defeating Taylor Townsend in her opener, Ivanovic fell to Monta Barthel 6-1, 3-6, 6-0.
Taylor Townsend: A. The 16-year-old scored her first WTA main-draw win as a professional, beating No. 57 Lucie Hradecka 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3 in the first round. Plus, she was killing it on Twitter during the Federer-Stan Wawrinka match. Apparently she's a big Federer fan.