Midterm Grades: Wozniacki shines, while fashion suffers Down Under

Sunday January 23rd, 2011

As I write this there are 24 players left in the draw and there have been zero huge upsets. Which makes for a promising final seven days. Herewith, our 2011 Australian Open midterm grades All marks given on the "Gentleman's C" curve...

Caroline Wozniacki: In one gutsy two-minute monologue, the top seed did more to endear herself than any million dollar marketing campaign ever could. Plus her tennis -- so shaky going in -- has been beyond reproach.

Francesca Schiavone: She beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 in a third-round marathon. Here is it mid-January and we have our match of the year, a nice reminder how exceptional women's tennis can be.

The Spanish Armada: At a time of relentless globalization, five of the 16 remaining players are Spanish, stating of course with Rafael Nadal, who's yet to drop a set. Now, if only they could play on clay.

Milos Raonic: Break out the Labatt's. The hard-serving Canadian had a breakthrough first week, reaching the round of 16 and leading the tournament in aces.

The courtside interview: Between Jim Courier jousting with Andy Roddick and Todd Woodbridge getting served by Kim Clijsters, these sessions have made for some of the tournament's best viewing so far.

Nicolas Lapentti: The South American veteran calls it a career at age 34.

The tournament in general: A bit sleepy so far. No titanic matches or staggering upsets or sizzling controversies or exceptional weather. But this usually bodes well for Week 2.

Aggie Radwanska: Fair Pole advances to the second week. But she lost her head, while others were keeping theirs.

Venus Williams: A big disappointment, retiring in the third round with an injury. But credit her for going out and trying.

Justine Henin: Her tennis is as ravishing as ever. Alas, the blunted power and curious tactics have led to another short outing, this one a third-round defeat at the hands a Svelte-lana Kuznetsova.

Dinara Safina: OK, she got her Richard Mille cleaned 6-0, 6-0 by Clijsters, a brutal loss for a player ranked No.1 a mere 18 months ago. But you have to respect the withering self-assessment: "Embarrassing. To lose two tournaments in a row six-love, six-one, six-love, six-love, it's really to scratch the head and think what the hell am I doing?" Asked if she can return, she responds, "Can I clear up my mind?" Wish her luck on all counts.

Former No.1's: Safina, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic -- all recent inhabitants of the WTA's top spot-bounced early.

Sam Querrey: No disrespect to Cool Hand Luke Kubot, but that's a first-round match Querrey has to figure out a way to win.

Ernests Gulbis: Like Querrey, he's too good to abide by a first-round exit. He's beaten Roger Federer and climbed back to the top 25, but he hasn't won a round at a major in more than a year.

This jackass: It's hard to imagine any context in which stalking is even plausibly funny.

Fashion: From Venus' basket weave to Wozniacki's ballerina number (Stella!) to Fernando Verdasco's faux hawk to the line judges' sunglasses. Well, where's Anna Wintour when you need her?

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