Report Card: Andy Murray's Brisbane title far from flawless
Though pushed to three sets in his opening two matches, Andy Murray won Brisbane for his 22nd career title. (Zumapress)
The Report Card hands out grades for the best and worst from the week in tennis.
Andy Murray: B. It may seem odd to give a guy who just won a title a 'B' grade, but Murray's run in Brisbane read like the current book on his career: prone to fits and starts with mystically bad form at times before settling down and playing like the man who has the game to win a major. He started the week needing to come back from a set down to beat No. 91 Mikhail Kukushkin and No. 54 Gilles Muller in the first and second rounds. But he then found his comfort zone and cruised to the title, dropping no more than five games in his final three matches, against Marcos Baghdatis, Bernard Tomic and Alexandr Dolgopolov.
The good news is that he seemed more than comfortable playing in front of new coach Ivan Lendl, who was courtside for his victory against Dolgopolov in the final. Murray said his goal wasn't to peak in Brisbane, which is a good thing because he's not going to make it far in Melbourne unless he improves. He'll have one more tune-up match, against David Nalbandian, in a guest appearance in the Kooyong exhibition on Friday. He'll need it. The slow starts in Brisbane will be slightly more forgivable in the early rounds in Melbourne, but he'll get trounced in the later rounds against the top dogs if he doesn't get it out of his system.
Petra Kvitova: B-plus. All eyes are on Kvitova right now. She's chasing Caroline Wozniacki for the No. 1 ranking and is undoubtedly one of the women to beat in 2012. You never know what you're going to get when the Czech takes the court, and she'll spend much of 2012 trying to shrug off her reputation for being shockingly inconsistent.
But she was great at the Hopman Cup in Perth, notching a hard-fought, three-set win over Wozniacki in round-robin play and beating Marion Bartoli in the final to help the Czech team to the title. The scrutiny continues this week in Sydney, where Kvitova has a shot at the No. 1 ranking and will be up against a spectacular field. But so far, so good for Kvitova. It's not easy winning with a target on your back.
The healthy: A. Milos Raonic, Kaia Kanepi and Zheng Jie have all had their careers derailed because of injury. After all, it's easy to forget that Zheng is a Grand Slam semifinalist and Kanepi has made the quarters at three of the four majors. When healthy, they're both dangerous floaters who have the talent to compete with the best.
Zheng's title in Auckland and Kanepi's in Brisbane bode well for the Australian Open and the upcoming season, as two overlooked dark horses seem to be in good form. Kanepi's win was particularly impressive. She traveled a tough road to the title, beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Andrea Petkovic, Francesca Schiavone and Daniela Hantuchova.
And how about Raonic? The young Canadian showed tremendous mettle in his 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4) win over Janko Tipsarevic in the Chennai final, picking up where he left off before a right hip injury took him out of the 2011 season. For those unfamiliar with the Raonic hype, it's these tight wins that seem to set him apart from the rest of the young pack. The big server seems immune to the nerves that go along with being embroiled in a tight match. Keep an eye on where he lands in the Australian Open draw.
The injured: D. It hasn't been an auspicious start for many of the favorites heading into Melbourne. Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters were all forced to withdraw from tournaments with acute injuries. No one wants to see players limping into a Grand Slam event. Here's hoping the three are able to summon Wolverine-like healing abilities this week.
Alla Kudryavtseva: A/F: The Russian, who famously upset Maria Sharapova in the second round at Wimbledon in 2008 and then criticized Sharapova's Wimbledon kit, let loose this tweet this week: