Report Card: Melanie Oudin, Tommy Haas take comebacks to new heights
The Report Card hands out grades for the week in tennis. This past week saw injury-plagued Tommy Haas and super-slumping Melanie Oudin take home titles in Halle and Birmingham.
Melanie Oudin: A-plus. Don't let that bright smile fool you. There have been some dark days for Oudin since her groundbreaking run at the U.S. Open 2009. There was, of course, the rather spectacular flameout that resulted in her tumbling as low as No. 370 in the ranking and proceeding to go over a year without notching a completed WTA main draw win. She finally broke that streak at Roland Garros with a first round win and now, two weeks later, Oudin has her first career title in Birmingham. But this isn't a story about how quickly your fortunes can change in tennis. No, Oudin's rebound is, for better or worse, less capricious than that, and thankfully so. For all of the attention Oudin received for her U.S. Open breakthrough, and for all the cruel judgments and laughter she received when she fell back to earth, so should she get all the praise for sticking to it, making some tough life decisions (parting ways with long-time coach Brian de Villers and moving to New York to train), and trudging on. It hasn't been easy and she's had to get some distance from the spotlight in order to regain her equilibrium and perspective. But now, with changes she's made and the success she's had over the last three months, it's hard not to think of this as Melanie Oudin: Reborn. Heck, she already has more titles in 2012 than Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova. That counts for something, right?
Tommy Haas: A-plus. In a week notable for comebacks, Haas' title run in Halle takes the cake. At 34 years old, the German veteran continues to ride the wave of momentum building in his comeback, beating Roger Federer 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the final of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany. Haas, who started the year ranked outside of the top 200, has gone 13-2 since returning to Europe after the U.S. swing. He's made the semifinals or better at his last two ATP Tour level tournaments (Munich and Halle), and after being denied a wildcard to the French Open, Haas successfully went through qualifying to make the third round. That's an impressive couple of month's work for a man whose body has been hampered by injury throughout his career and whose age is, let's face it, pushing the upper limits of reasonable expectations. Thankfully, Haas won't have to put his hard hat on and work through qualifying next week at Wimbledon. The All England Lawn and Tennis Club has wisely granted him a wildcard into the main draw and there's no reason to think Haas can't cause a ripple once the tournament begins. After all, he was a semifinalist there just three years ago.
Marin Cilic: B-plus. Is anyone going to remember that Cilic won Queen's? That's not a knock on the Croat, who had a solid week at a tournament where the seeds fell like London Rain. He handled David Nalbandian's default, and the ensuing backlash from the paying fans as best he could, but the shy Croat looked he wanted to be anywhere but Center Court as he held his trophy aloft.
Roger Federer: B-plus. Sure, he lost the final to Haas, but Federer got what he needed in Halle. A good number of matches under his belt, a tough three set-win over Milos Raonic that tested him early in the tournament, and a street named after him. In making the Halle finals, Federer has now made the semifinals or better at 13 of his last 14 tournaments dating back to the 2011 U.S. Open (with a third-round loss to Andy Roddick in Miami the lone exception). That's just an incredible streak of consistency.
Jelena Jankovic: B-minus. The title in Birmingham was Jankovic's for the taking as the highest seed remaining after a rash of early upsets. She only had to beat one player in the top 40 to make the final (Zheng Jie) but came up against an inspired Melanie Oudin in the final. This isn't the first time Oudin has handed JJ an upset loss, the first time being at Wimbledon in 2009. After that match, Jankovic said she wasn't impressed by the young American's game. “She doesn’t have any weapons, from what I’ve seen," Jankovic said in 2009. "She doesn’t make so many mistakes. But she doesn’t do anything, either, so it’s like she’s depending kind of on you.” It might be time to revisit that assessment, JJ.
David Nalbandian: F. I really don't want to devote much more ink (than what I already wrote) to this incident except to say this: Man drives recklessly down the street. Man loses control of car and crashes into a storefront window. Man injures patrons seated inside. Man did not mean to injure anyone.
Grigor Dimitrov: B-plus. You had to appreciate the flow of emotion from the 21-year-old Bulgarian after he beat Kevin Anderson in the quarters at Queen's to reach his first ATP semifinal. The tears flowed and heartfelt hugs were shared with his team, as it finally looked like Dimitrov, a young talent everyone's waiting anxiously to see blossom, had made some progress. London holds some special memories for Grigor, who won the Boys' Junior Wimbledon championship in 2008. There are still some big questions surrounding Dimitrov (his backhand and his body are both prone to breaking down), but keep an eye on him as Wimbledon rolls around.
Sam Querrey: B-plus. Man wins Queen's Club title in 2010 during man's career year. Man falls through glass table, shredding man's arm. Man is off-tour for eight months. Man returns to Queen's Club in 2012 to make the semifinals. You get a 80's movie slow clap for last week's work, Sam.
Andy Murray: F. Andy Murray isn't exactly heading into Wimbledon with a ton of momentum, which could turn out to be a good thing for him. Murray told everyone not to panic after he lost in his first match at Queen's to Nicolas Mahut, and he's right. After all, he lost in a third set tiebreaker to the serve and volleying Frenchman, who was himself a former Queen's finalist (2007). But still, not good to play poorly in front of your home crowd two weeks before Wimbledon.
Andy Roddick: B. In case you haven't noticed, these grades are given on a curve and despite Roddick losing his first match at Queen's to Edouard Roger-Vasselin, 4-6, 6-4, 5-7, his form was actually the best we've seen since Miami. If Andy Roddick serves at 80 percent on grass, you'd back him to win most of his matches, right? Roger-Vasselin played well and Roddick was still shaking out the rust on his grass court game. But there were definitely some positives to take away from that match and Roddick wisely took a wild card into this week's tournament in Eastbourne to get some more match play.
National Olympic Committees: F. When it comes to team nominations for the upcoming Olympic Games, there's a whole lot of head-scratching going on with a number of National Olympic Committees. India has refused to nominate Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna as its second doubles team, and since neither man is willing to play with Leander Paes, both men will sit out the Games unless the All India Tennis Association changes its decision by the Thursday deadline. Meanwhile, in a week that saw Philipp Kohlschreiber defeat Rafael Nadal on grass in Halle, word came out that the German federation hasn't nominated any German men to the team, despite the fact that they have two men who have qualified based on the ITF's rules (Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer). Similarly, Sweden has chosen not to send Sofia Arvidsson even though she's qualified as well. Discussions are still being had behind closed doors and the official nominations have yet to be announced. But one thing we do know: these aren't the only athletes who are going to have their Olympic dreams ruined by their own country's federations.
Ana Ivanovic: F. Worrisome stuff for Ivanovic, who was forced to withdraw from Eastbourne with a right hip injury. With the number of injuries she picks up throughout the year, maybe it's time she takes a hard look at her fitness training. Something just isn't right. British weather: F. I suppose this is business as usual for the Brits but it always boggles my mind that they invented a sport to be played on grass when their summers are as wet and windy as they are. The rain forced a Monday final in Birmingham, slippery conditions in Queen's. Meanwhile, Halle was laughing all the way to the bank.