Welcome to Island U, TTI’s new weekly round-up that promises to track the progress of the week’s best (and worst) performers. Players who earn at least three Island U grades will make their way to the Dean’s List, where grades will be averaged into an easy-to-follow GPA system. Stay tuned as the 2015 semester unfolds!
Though no official WTA tournaments were held last week, many of the top women descended on Fed Cup to play for their country and ensure Olympic qualification for next year’s Rio Games. How did everyone stack up?
Maria Sharapova: A+
Maria Sharapova made a clean sweep of the Radwanska sisters this weekend, defeating both Agnieszka and Urszula in straight sets and conceding just nine games in four sets. Sharapova’s victories helped lead Russia to a 3-0 victory over Poland to advance to the Fed Cup semifinals. This was the Russian’s first Fed Cup appearance since 2012, but looked quite comfortable under the leadership of new captain (and former rival) Anastasia Myskina and undoubtedly left her mark on the city of Krakow.
Whoopsies. Hope the owner doesn't mind. http://t.co/Unh6EjgE4C—
Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) February 09, 2015
Serena Williams: A-
The Australian Open champion had to make a quick transition to the clay courts of Buenos Aires for the US team’s World Group II tie, but overcame a slow start to bagel Maria Irigoyen in the second set. Still showing signs of the respiratory illness that plagued her for most of her fortnight Down Under, Williams pulled out of the reverse singles, but if this is how well she plays with a cold, the rest of the field would seem to be in for an even ruder awakening once the World No. 1 is feeling better.
Venus Williams: A
Elder sister Venus continued her strong start to 2015 with two straight set wins, the second to clinch the tie for the Americans, putting them one step closer to World Group I.
Andrea Petkovic: A+(++++++)
The only word that should be associated with Andrea Petkovic this weekend? Clutch. After beating Sam Stosur in a match that lasted three hours and sixteen minutes in the second rubber, Petkovic came back and sealed the tie for the Germans over Australia after another marathon, beating Jarmila Gajdosova 8-6 in the third set. The German has never been known for her ability to close, but capped an emotional weekend with two of the strongest performances of her career.
Simona Halep: B-
Romania’s top player began strongly at home, crushing Spain’s Soler Espinosa in straight sets, but looked out of it against the fast-rising Garbiñe Muguruza. The player who looked most likely to carry her team into World Group I had to rely on superior performances from Monica Niculescu and, particularly, Irina Camelia Begu, who won back-to-back rubbers on Sunday to clinch a 3-2 decision over Spain.
Agnieszka Radwanska: C-
Agnieszka Radwanska is the heart of team Poland. Knowing that both she and her sister would have to face Maria Sharapova, her first round rubber against Svetlana Kuznetsova proved to be a must-win match that she wasn’t able to capture. Her loss all but guaranteed that Poland would be down 0-2 after the first day of action. After losing to Kuznetsova, she and Urszula were subsequently (and rather emphatically) shut down by Sharapova, thus ending their Fed cup hopes.
Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci: F
In another must-win rubber, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci won a grand total of three games. On clay. At home. In the slightest of defenses, French opponents Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia hit 36 winners to 20 unforced. By contrast, Errani and Vinci hit 18 unforced errors to just 6 winners.
They were clearly outplayed, but that scoreline is simply shocking.
Most of the big guns were out of action this week, but who among the “second line” rose to the occasion?
Victor Estrella Burgos: A+
What a week it was for Victor Estrella Burgos. At 34, he won his first-ever ATP title, defeating Feliciano Lopez in the Quito final. Estrella Burgos, who is now the oldest first time title winner in ATP history, took down the Spainiard in a dramatic third set tiebreak to get the job done. Estrella Burgos’ victory should do well to fuel the already large fires of hungry up and coming players looking to make it on the biggest stages of the game.
Ivo Karlovic: C
Giving Ivo Karlovic a failing grade this week wouldn’t be hard to defend, but a C seems appropriate, given that his first round loss as the top seed in Zagreb came against the experienced veteran, Marcos Baghdatis, in a brutally close three set match. But the Croat, being the incredible server that he is, will not be happy having lost the final two sets in tiebreaks.
Jerzy Janowicz: B
Jerzy Janowicz is surely not giving himself a passing grade this week; he’s still looking for a first ATP World Tour title. The Pole reached the final in Montpellier but was unable to compete due to illness, retiring after losing the first three games and first 14 points of the match. No player wants to lose because of an illness, particularly in a final. It’s a major bummer for Janowicz, but looking on the bright side, he does seem to be turning things around after a poor 2014 season.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Richard Gasquet: A
You win a tournament, you get an A; it’s really as simple as that. Gasquet won his first three matches of the week with little resistance and, of course, did not have to do much in the final with Janowicz retiring. Garcia-Lopez was pushed in his quarterfinal encounter by the red-hot, resurgent Viktor Troicki before winning 7-5 in the third. The rest of his week was smooth for the Spaniard who only dropped one set on his road to the title.
Adrian Mannarino and Santiago Giraldo: D
Adrian Mannarino and Santiago Giraldo both entered this week as number two seeds in Zagreb and Quito, respectively. Both were shown the door in their first matches of the week. Mannarino was taken out by Igor Sijsling, a player in much poorer form than the ostensibly better Frenchman. Giraldo was beaten by Albert Montanes, a skilled clay court player, but one that Giraldo would have expected to get through.
How would you have marked the field last week? Sound off in the comments!