Roger Federer, top seeds lead 2014 Australian Open midterm grades
MELBOURNE, Australia -- As the atmospheric fever breaks and the 2014 Australian Open is no longer a blast furnace pretending to be a sporting event, this is as good a time as any to take a cool and measured inventory of the Week One action. Through the third round, herewith our Midterm Grades.
The Favorites: The top four seeds on both sides -- plus that Roger Federer guy that everyone keeps talking about -- are through to Week Two with hardly a scare.
Donald Young: Yes, Donald Young disappointed us, and once again, the U.S. will not have a man in the second week of a Grand Slam. But give Young considerable credit for resurrecting his career, improving his fitness and remaining a part of the conversation.
Eugenie Bouchard: Seeded for the first time at a Grand Slam, the Canadian whips through to the fourth round, where she'll face young Aussie Casey Dellacqua. The bandwagon is filling up fast.
Kevin Anderson: The South African wins his first three matches in five setters, mounting comebacks from 0-2 down in two of them. He'll take on Tomas Berdych in the fourth round.
Stephane Robert: The Frenchman didn't make it out of qualifying, but he stuck around -- first to serve as Roger Federer's sparring partner and then to fill a 'lucky loser' spot when Philipp Kohlschreiber was a non-starter. Next thing you know, he's in the round of 16, guaranteed a boatload of points and $150,000.
Maria Sharapova: Apart from overcoming some tight matches and advancing to Week 2, good for her for taking a stand -- both in the press room and on Twitter -- on the authorities' clumsiness and the overall madness of asking athletes to compete in dangerously hot conditions.
Spain: Not only are the favorites (Nadal, Ferrer, Robredo) in gear, but Garbine Muruzuga (who beat Caroline Wozniacki) and Roberto Baustista Agut have been revelations. Vamos, indeed.
Australian players: Bernard Tomic lasted a set. ("Tomic Bombs," as the local headlines described it.) Lleyton Hewitt, uncharacteristically, lost a war of attrition. Sam Stosur, dropped a winnable match to Ana Ivanovic. Marinko Matosevic, lost, blaming everyone from his demure coach to "idiots of Wikipedia."
But there's plenty of the positive on which to focus: the delightful Casey Dellacqua remains on the women's side. Ash Barty gave a nice accounting of herself against Serena, and teenagers Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis are both the real deals. Kyrgios, in fact has been the break-out star of the event, and not simply because he is local. His personal Web site received over 250,000 hits in 12 hours and crashed.
Tomas Berdych: The tennis has been unimpeachable. The attire, not so much.
Sloane Stephens: The best American not named Serena has yet to play her best tennis this tournament. She's trailed in each of her matches, and came within a game of losing to Ajla "Superfluous L's" Tomljanovich. But, yet again, she's back in the second week of a Grand Slam. Good for her.
Monica Niculescu: She's no longer in the tournament, but Niculescu picked off No. 15-seed Sabine Lisicki riding her unlikely weapon, the slice forehand, in the second round.
Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani: The good news: they remain the top seed in doubles. The bad news: both lost their first-round match in singles.
The Heat: Brutal. The decision to play matches with on-court temperatures exceeding 120-degrees: Even more brutal.
Players over 6'6": In large part it was caused by the heat, but the ATP's starting front line of Del Potro, Isner and Janowicz fail to get out of the second week.
Petra Kvitova: You could easily make the case that, on her best day, she's the second best player in the world. Sadly those days are few and far between. In the ten majors since she won Wimbledon, she's lost in the first week five times.
Courtsiders: Another reason you're a fool to bet on tennis.