Report Card: Roger Federer, Andy Murray win titles ahead of Wimbledon
The Report Card hands out grades for the week in tennis. Last week, Roger Federer ended a 10-month title drought and Andy Murray won in his return to the tour.
Roger Federer: A. Federer rallied to defeat Mikhail Youzhny 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday to win the Gerry Weber Open for his first title since last August. The 31-year-old Federer matched John McEnroe for third all time with his 77th title and rallied from a set down to win both the semifinals (against Tommy Haas) and final of a tournament for the first time since Hamburg in 2007. It wasn't the dominant win that we've come to expect from Federer, but it sets him up well for his title defense at Wimbledon.
He also gets bonus points for giving his doubles partner and good friend Haas a snazzy lift to London. Win or lose, it's good to be The Fed.
Andy Murray: A-plus. Much like Federer, Murray reminded everyone that, yes, he is pretty darn good at tennis. He also came back from a set down in both his semifinal and final to capture his third title at the Aegon Championships, beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals and defending champion Marin Cilic 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 in the championship match. It was a strong showing from Murray, who played his first tournament since missing the French Open with a back injury. That he worked his way through a week of stops and starts on the slippery courts at Queen's without any problems is a good sign for Wimbledon. Bring on Murray Mania.
Murray gets extra points for his part in the Rally Against Cancer exhibition that took place after the final, in which he gleefully entertained the crowd by finally "tubing" Ivan Lendl and going full bonkers with the celebration. The event raised more than $240,000 for charity. Murray once again showed his softer side in holding back tears as he spoke about his best friend Ross Hutchins' cancer battle. You can see that part of the interview at the 1:17 mark:
Gael Monfils: C-minus. You're leading a competitive quarterfinal match against Haas, with a chance to play Federer in the semifinals. So, obviously, it makes sense to go for the most foolish overhead you could possible imagine. Monfils lost the point, was broken in that game to lose the set and went on to lose the match. It may not make sense to us, but apparently it's all gravy in Gael Monfils' world. Monfils said it was the most efficient way to hit that shot, if you can believe it.
Tommy Haas: B-plus. Barring a disastrous draw, Haas is going to do some damage at Wimbledon. He defeated Ernests Gulbis and Monfils in Halle, Germany, and pushed Federer in the semifinals in a rematch of last year's final, which the German won. Ranked 11th in the Race to London, Haas is making a run at the ATP World Tour Finals.
Daniela Hantuchova: A. Add Hantuchova to the list of winners in their 30s. The 30-year-old beat 16-year-old Donna Vekic 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the final of the Aegon Classic to cap a week in Birmingham, England, in which Hantuchova battled back repeatedly to outlast Francesca Schiavone 6-7 (8), 6-4, 7-6 (3), rallied for three-set victories against Kristina Mladenovic and Alison Riske and dismissed Laura Robson in straight sets. Now ranked No. 48, she'll go into Wimbledon as a dangerous floater.
Donna Vekic: A-plus. Throughout my week in Birmingham, the question that kept flying around the press room was whether the 16-year-old Croatian who trains in London is the real deal. Still playing under the WTA age restrictions that limit her number of tournaments, Vekic has already made two tour finals, something that other "Next Big Things" like Sloane Stephens, Robson and Madison Keys have not accomplished (Stephens and Keys have yet to play in a final). Vekic, who works with Tim Henman's former coach David Felgate, has a powerful game that doesn't just revolve around bashing the heck out of the ball from the baseline. Her point construction was solid. Most impressive to me was her courage on the big points, where she stayed aggressive. So far, she's proving that the hype is justified.
Mikhail Youzhny: A-minus. The General's strong run to the Halle final included quality victories over Kei Nishikori, Philipp Kohlschreiber and a 6-2, 6-3 thrashing of No. 9 Richard Gasquet in the semifinals. He fell to 0-15 against Federer but did manage to take a set in the final.
Marin Cilic: B-plus. Cilic came within a set of defending his Queen's title after storming back from 1-4 down to take the first set from Murray 7-5. Though Murray rallied to win, the 12th-ranked Cilic came away from the week with a victory over Tomas Berdych and his second appearance in a final this year.
Loved this tweet about Cilic, the invisible top-20 player:
Alison Riske: A. The 22-year-old American's mastery of the dodgy courts in Birmingham continued. All 11 of Riske's main-draw victories have come at the Edgbaston Priory Club, where she's made the semifinals twice and quarterfinals once in four tournaments. After qualifying this year, she upset Sabine Lisicki in the quarterfinals before Hantuchova ousted her in three sets. Riske's latest success at the tournament earned her a Wimbledon main-draw wild card and lifted her ranking from No. 167 to No. 126.
Madison Keys: B-minus. In her first WTA main draw on grass, Keys made her third quarterfinal of the year on three different surfaces. The 18-year-old scored a good win over fellow American Jamie Hampton and upset Mona Barthel, only to get schooled in the ways of grass tennis by former Birmingham champion Magdalena Rybarikova in a disappointing 6-3, 6-0 effort. It'll be interesting to see what she can do at Wimbledon in her first appearance.
Lleyton Hewitt: A. The old man still has some magic in him. The four-time Queen's winner blitzed his way to the semifinals with victories against Grigor Dimitrov, Sam Querrey and Juan Martin del Potro. The 32-year-old Australian's trademark fire wasn't reserved for the court. After a three-set loss to Cilic, Hewitt blasted Queen's officials for moving his rain-delayed match, which had already begun, from Centre Court to Court 1 in order to get Murray onto the main court. "I was disappointed, obviously," Hewitt said. "To play a semifinal on a tour event, especially one like this, Court 1 in front of a few people is not the ideal situation that you want to play in."
Simona Halep: A. The Romanian, who had a fantastic run to the semifinal at the Italian Open last month, continued that clay form at the Nurnberger Versicherungscup, where she defeated Andrea Petkovic 6-3, 6-3 for her first title. Also, this picture is awesome:
Andrea Petkovic: B-plus. I don't know what the point is of having a clay tournament the week after Roland Garros, but Petkovic took advantage by making her first WTA final of the year. She may not have won the title, but her 6-4, 6-3 win over top-seeded Jelena Jankovic in the semifinals is her best complete-match victory since injuring her knee in January. That said, don't expect her to do much at Wimbledon, where she was granted a wild card. The German has made no secret for her hate-hate relationship with the green stuff. "Everybody knows that grass and me haven't become a love romance yet," she said after losing to Halep. "But I'm working on it. A few candlelight dinners with the grass and we'll see. I hope it turns out to be a better thing." Bob and Mike Bryan: A. The brothers made Queen's Club their eighth title of the year. The reigning champions at the U.S. Open, Australian Open and French Open, they could complete their own version of the Golden Slam if they win Wimbledon.