Report Card: Serena Williams cruises in Sweden; Fabio Fognini on a roll
The Report Card hands out grades for the week in tennis. Last week, Serena Williams recorded a career first, Fabio Fognini continued his roll and Roger Federer debuted a new racket.
Serena Williams: A. Williams has been criticized throughout her career for playing a light schedule and not doing enough to support the WTA Tour's lower-level events. (Before last week, she had played only five International-level events in 17 years.) So credit her for entering the Swedish Open in Bastad, a low-level tournament on red clay, even if a large appearance fee might have made the decision easier. Sessions looked sold out from the first day she stepped on court until the last, and Williams didn't drop a set against a weak field in winning her first International-level title, her seventh overall this year and the 53rd of her career. Williams defeated Johanna Larsson 6-4, 6-1 in the final to extend her clay winning streak to 28. Serena Williams, clay-court specialist? Sure, why not?
Here's Williams addressing the crowd after the final:
Ivo Karlovic: A-plus. Karlovic won his first title in five years, going 61-for-61 in his service games and firing 104 aces in five matches at the Claro Open Colombia. The fact that the 34-year-old Croat did it less than three months after being hospitalized for viral meningitis, in his second tournament back, is an amazing accomplishment. Karlovic climbed from No. 155 to No. 87 this week after beating Kevin Anderson in the semifinals and Colombia's Alejandro Falla in the final.
Fabio Fognini: A-plus. Two weeks ago, the 26-year-old Italian had never won an ATP Tour title. Now, he's collected two in a row, first in Stuttgart and last week in Hamburg, where he defeated Tommy Haas (for the second straight week), Nicolas Almagro and surprise finalist Federico Delbonis. Fognini saved three match points in his 4-6, 7-6 (8), 6-2 victory over Delbonis to complete the German double. He's risen to a career-high 19th, and he'll go for three in a row this week at the Croatia Open.
Check out this scrambling defense from Fognini in the final:
Federico Delbonis: A. The 22-year-old Argentine qualifier had a giant-killing week in Germany. He was one volley into the open court away from winning his first ATP title, but he was unable to convert those three match points against Fognini. Still, in saving two points in a three-set win over Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals and dismissing Roger Federer 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4) in the semifinals, the big-hitting lefty showed that he's another young name to watch. Delbonis cracked the top 100 after his Hamburg run, moving up from No. 114 to a career-high No. 65.
Here are highlights from Delbonis' win over Federer:
Roger Federer: C-plus. It was a good move to play-test his new 98-square-inch racket head, and on the whole he looked great with it. I agree with Federer's statement that his loss to Delbonis -- who, like Sergiy Stakgovsky, was ranked outside the top 100 when he upset the Swiss great -- shouldn't be blamed on the racket. His new stick didn't look as awkward as I thought it would. He showed some great touch and feel, along with noticeably improved spin on both his topspin and slices. But he left Hamburg with growing concerns over his back, which looked to get stiffer as the tournament progressed. Federer is in a tough spot as he tries to balance his desire for more matches to get acquainted with his new equipment, against his need to be fit for the U.S. Open. He's set to play this week at an ATP 250 clay-court tournament in Gstaad, Switzerland.
Sandra Klemenschits: A-plus. The Austrian has spent much of the past five years playing doubles on the ITF circuit since returning from abdominal cancer, the same disease that took the life of her twin sister and former doubles partner, Daniela, at age 25 in 2008. Sandra, 30, won her first WTA doubles tournament last week, teaming with Andreja Klepac, whose father recently died of cancer, in Bad Gastein, Austria.
Yvonne Meusburger: A. The Austrian No. 1 won her first WTA title and did it on home soil, beating Andrea Hlavackova 7-5, 6-2 in the final of the Gastein Ladies.
Fernando Verdasco: C-minus. Verdasco checked out after losing the second set to Delbonis in the Hamburg quarterfinals, to the point that even the official tournament Twitter account grew critical, questioning whether the 29-year-old Spaniard even wanted to win the match (the tweets have since been deleted).
Arantxa Rus: B-plus. She snapped a 17-match losing streak by beating Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 in the first round in Bad Gastein. She also ousted Estrella Cabeza Candela before losing to eventual champion Meusburger.
Alison Riske: A. The 23-year-old reached the final of a $50,000 ITF event in Portland, Ore., to break into the top 100 (at No. 96) for the first time, putting 11 Americans that high. Riske recently made her Twitter account public, which has been a great vehicle for her personality. Follow @Riske4Rewards. It's clear how much her fellow Americans adore her:
Sloane Stephens: B. If you can move up the rankings to make your top-15 debut without lifting a finger, it's been a good week.
Juan Martin del Potro: A-plus. Watch out, Mickey. No one can resist his charms: