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Island U: Making the Grade Down Under

We are halfway through the Australian Open, and it’s been a hell of a week. We’ve got upsets, heartbreak, and everything in between. We’ve seen the performances, and now it’s time to pass out our midterm grades.

Let’s see who’s passing with flying colors, and who flunked out of Australia!

Roger Federer: D-

It’s quite obvious that Federer was going to get a low score after an early exit. His play, marred by unforced errors and uncharacteristically bad shots, gave unseeded Italian Andreas Seppi the advantage to beat him 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6. Moreover, his previous match against Seppi’s countryman Simone Bolelli wasn’t the decisive win Federer had hoped for. He only bounced back after losing the opening set.

Federer, the No. 2 seed, was bombarded with questions about his age catching up with him, but let’s hope this isn’t the case. #narratives

Rafael Nadal: B

Some might argue that Nadal might need a lower grade, after his listless near-loss to American Tim Smyczek.

Yet, here he is in the quarterfinals. His last two straight-set wins against Israeli Dudi Sela and South African Kevin Anderson show he’s still in the run for a comeback major title. His next challenge will be against Tomas Berdych, who has been on a roll this Australian Open. Fortunately for Nadal, Berdych hasn’t won against him since 2006.

Nick Kyrgios: B+

Nick Kyrgios has made the Melbourne crowd his over the first week, captivating the fans and becoming the first Aussie to make the quarterfinals since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005. En route, Kyrgios upset No. 23 seed Ivo Karlovic, before putting together a gutsy performance in outlasting Federer-conquer Seppi in a five-set Hisense Arena thriller. The 19-year-old’s captivating run is worthy of top marks, but we can’t condone his habits of racket smashing and obscenity shouting here at Island U.

Kids these days.

Serena Williams: A-

Serena Williams’ road so far has been smooth sailing despite a few tiny bumps in the road. Her third round match against 20-year-old Elina Svitolina didn’t start off as planned, and she dropped the opening set 6-4. Fortunately for the World No. 1, she recovered and was able to win the next two sets. However, her next match is against Garbine Muguruza, her conquerer at last year’s French Open. Williams will have to step it up to make it to the quarterfinals, and she’ll have to reach back and play in the gear she found late in her earlier matches from first ball.

Maria Sharapova: B+

Though she might have had an “easy” draw to some, Sharapova has been not without her challenges. Sharapova’s Australian Open is looking a lot like Rafael Nadal’s. She barely escaped a near exit – saving two match points in the second round against fellow Russian Alexandra Panova – but she has been looking as sharp as ever in her matches since.

World No. 2 Sharapova has booked herself a spot in the quarterfinals against Eugenie Bouchard, who is itching to shake off the comparisons that have been following her ever since she rocketed to stardom. Bouchard’s three-set win against Irina-Camelia Begu showed her weakness, and Sharapova will be sure to try and capitalize on them.

Venus Williams: A

The elder Williams’ comeback has been one of the great stories developing down under. The American has been showing she’s still got it, and at 34, she’s the oldest player still in the draw. Her three set win against Italian young gun Camila Giorgi was her biggest win yet. However, Williams is looking for a title, not just a good tournament. Unfortunately, Agnieszka Radwanska is waiting for her in the fourth round, and she’s been smashing the competition in hopes of winning her first Grand Slam.

Williams will attempt to stop Radwanska from leveling their 5-4 head-to-head, and she won’t roll over quietly.

Island U is a new segment at TTI for the 2015 season – follow along all year to see which players make the Dean’s List!

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