Report Card: Busy week off the court
The Report Card hands out grades for the week in tennis. Last week, off-court drama overshadowed some tremendous on-court performances.
Sloane Stephens: C-minus. I don't know what pushed Stephens to go nuclear in her recent interview with ESPN The Magazine, where she detailed her deteriorating relationship with Serena Williams. This wasn't a case of an unsavvy youngster running her mouth without anyone around to check her. Stephens' mother cautioned her twice during the interview, but the 20-year-old just couldn't help herself and used the opportunity to vent. Hey, I'm all for that. The last thing fans and media want is a player to take a page out of the Crash Davis handbook (link contains strong language) and give predictable answers that reveal nothing about her character or her thinking.
What wasn't clear to me from the story was whether Stephens understands her own role in concocting the mentor-protege narrative that she blames the media for blowing out of proportion. Stephens has spoken glowingly of Williams in various interviews, telling the media that the two "talk all the time" and that Serena has been "a really great influence" on her career. "I love her to death," Stephens said of Williams before facing her at the Brisbane International in January. She may not acknowledge it, but Stephens was happy to sell the story until all of a sudden she wasn't and then blamed everyone else for the myth-making.
(Incidentally, Stephens lost to Daniela Hantuchova 6-3, 7-5 in the first round of the Madrid Open on Saturday. Stephens fell to 2-7 since the Australian Open.)
John Tomic: F. It's time for the ATP to step in and do what Bernard Tomic once asked an umpire to do in Miami: remove his father. If the allegations are true that John Tomic headbutted his son's hitting partner, Thomas Drouet, in Madrid and that he also punched Bernard in the face in Monaco, he should get a lifetime ban from tennis, in addition to whatever fine or sentence the Spanish court sees fit to impose if it finds him guilty of assault. He should be banned from all tournaments and Tennis Australia facilities.
How can anyone in tennis feel safe knowing this guy is around? Aside from protecting other players, officials and fans, the ATP needs to step in and shield Bernard from his overbearing and allegedly physically abusive father. We've seen these types of father figures around tennis for years. It never ends well.
ATP World Tour: A-plus. After news broke on Friday that ATP executive chairman and president Brad Drewett had died, the unified chorus of affection and gratitude from current and former players was everything you needed to know about Drewett's legacy and just how much he was respected.
Stanislas Wawrinka: A-plus. I did a double take when I looked up Wawrinka's results to see when he won his last title. To my surprise, the Portugal Open marked his first title since the Chennai Open in January 2011. Though Wawrinka's road to last week's final wasn't challenging (he faced Nos. 57, 113 and 228 after a first-round bye), the task of having to beat David Ferrer for the Swiss' fourth career title certainly was. But Wawrinka played almost flawlessly to win 6-1, 6-4 in just 65 minutes, his second victory over the Spaniard in their last eight meetings.
Tommy Haas: A. Haas' decision to skip Monte Carlo after the North American season and start his European clay season in Munich paid off. The German won the BMW Open for the first time in 10 attempts, becoming the ATP's first 35-year-old titlist since Fabrice Santoro at the 2008 Hall of Fame Tennis Championships. Haas overcame a tough opening test against Ernests Gulbis and then cruised to his first title of the year and 14th overall, beating fellow German Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 7-6 (3) in the final. Ranked No. 205 at the start of last year, Haas is now up to No. 13.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: A. It's hard to gauge how much of an effect new coach Martina Hingis has actually had on her game; Pavlyuchenkova won the Monterrey Open last month before Hingis officially signed on to coach her. But the 21-year-old Russian, who has struggled with her consistency the last few years, won another title last week, defeating Carla Suarez Navarro 7-5, 6-2 in the final of the Portugal Open. Pavlyuchenkova is a raw talent with a big game that she's still learning how to harness, but she can be an upset threat at Roland Garros if she keeps this up. (After only one day off following her first clay-court title, Pavlyuchenkova lost to Victoria Azarenka in two tiebreakers in her opening match at the Madrid Open on Monday.)
Carla Suarez Navarro: B. The 24-year-old Spaniard remains the best player without a title after falling to 0-5 in finals and in matches against Pavlyuchenkova. It'd be a shame if such a talented player didn't finish her career with at least a couple of clay-court titles.
David Ferrer: C-plus. The world No. 4 got absolutely spanked by Wawrinka in the Portugal Open final. I'm not sure it's time to hit the panic button with Ferrer; after all, he's made the semifinals or better in seven of nine tournaments this year. But his recent clay losses to Dmitry Tursunov in Barcelona and Wawrinka in Portugal are definitely surprising, as was the lopsidedness of his loss to Rafael Nadal on the surface in the Mexican Open final.
Alex Kuznetsov and Shelby Rogers: A-minus. Kuznetsov and Rogers are headed to Paris to compete in their first French Open main draw after winning the USTA's wild-card playoffs. Kuznetsov, 26, retired from a quarterfinal match at the Tallahassee Challenger last week because of a shoulder injury, but his result there, a quarterfinal at the Savannah Challenger and a title as a qualifier at the Sarasota Challenger were enough to punch his ticket. Rogers, 20, lost her second match at the Indian Harbour Beach Challenger and had to wait out the weekend to see if her results over the last three weeks (including a title in Charlottesville) would hold up. They did, and now she'll play her first Grand Slam tournament since the 2010 U.S. Open.
Denis Kudla: A. The 20-year-old won the Tallahassee Challenger by beating Ryan Harrison 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in the semifinals and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-3, 6-3 in the final. Kudla has put in some good work over the last few months on the Challenger circuit to raise his ranking to a career-high No. 116.
I liked this stat comparing Kudla with Jack Sock (No. 118 this week), via Jeff Sackman of Tennis Abstract: