Welcome back to Island U, TTI’s new weekly round-up. After two weeks of intense play in the desert of Indian Wells, Nicholas Nemeroff returns to grade the best, worst, and welcome a record SEVEN new names onto the Dean’s List, where players who earn three or more grades are filed into an easy-to-follow GPA system.
The first big tournament since the Australian Open did a lot to progress the season’s central narrative while introducing and massaging a few entertaining subplots along the way. Who made the grade at the BNP Paribas Open? Find out here:
Novak Djokovic: A+
For the second straight year, Novak Djokovic took the title in Indian Wells. The Serbian has now won Larry Ellison’s signature tournament four times and counting. After dismantling Andy Murray in the semifinal, the top seed did well to recover from a second set lapse against archrival Roger Federer in the final. The Serb was firing on all cylinders on Sunday and continues to show why he is the cream of the crop of the ATP World Tour.
Milos Raonic: A-
It was a big week for Milos Raonic, who scored his first-ever victory over Spain’s Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals. The Canadian saved three match points in a dramatic second set tiebreak before ultimately winning the match in three. Though Raonic went on to lose to Federer in the semifinals, it was still a very positive week for him.
Stan Wawrinka: D
One of Wawrinka’s major problems in 2014 was his inability to remain consistent throughout the year. If Indian Wells was any indication, this problem isn’t going away anytime soon. The No. 2 Swiss was sent packing his first match of the week against the struggling Dutchman, Robin Haase.
David Ferrer: C
After winning in back to back weeks in Buenos Aires and Acapulco, David Ferrer was beaten by Australian Bernard Tomic in the third round. Tomic played a terrific match, but it was a disappointing result for Ferrer, nonetheless.
Andy Murray: B
Andy Murray did reach the semifinals, but his difficulties handling a certain Serb have not gone away. Murray has not beaten Djokovic since the 2013 Wimbledon final. If the Scot expects to be hoisting the biggest titles, solving Djokovic will prove key.
Jack Sock: A++
In his first tournament back in 2015 – after dealing with injury and brother Eric’s illness – Jack Sock not only won the doubles crown with Vasek Pospisil (beating the Bryans along the way), but also scored three great singles wins, coming from a set down in all three matches.
Kei Nishikori: B
One of the most shocking results of the week for me (aside from Raonic’s aforementioned takedown of Nadal), was Kei Nishikori falling to Feliciano Lopez in the Round of 16. At this point in his career, one would expect Lopez to be no match for the fast-rising Japanese star.
Grigor Dimitrov: C
Dimitrov has not had a memorable 2015 season entering Indian Wells, and the trend continued as he fell to the out-of-form Tommy Robredo in the third round.
Roger Federer: A-
Roger Federer put together a great tournament in Indian Wells, winning all his matches in straight sets before facing an otherwise zoned-in and highly impressive Novak Djokovic in the final. Federer made a rally in the second set of Sunday’s final before dropping off in the middle of the third set. Will stamina be an issue as the ATP rolls into the second of its mini-majors?
Generation AUS: B+
If style points were weighed heavier, then Bernard Tomic, Nick Kyrgios, and Thanasi Kokkinakis would have all earned higher marks after flashy performances helped them grab headlines during the tournament’s first week. For the first two, endurance and physical stability remain crucial as both left Indian Wells with injuries. Kokkinakis’ arc was undoubtedly the most optimistic; as a last-minute wild card, the Aussie put himself within one match of the Top 100, beating Juan Monaco in a nail-biting three set affair and giving Tomic all he could handle in another match to go the distance. Things are looking up Down Under.
Simona Halep: A+
Simona Halep defeated Jelena Jankovic in the Indian Wells final, in a match was very long, very dramatic, but admittedly not of the highest quality. Regardless, the Romanian is quickly putting the memory of her Australian Open flameout to Ekaterina Makarova behind her, and comes away from California with her third title of 2015 – and her first Premier Mandatory.
Serena Williams: A+
Despite having to withdraw before her semifinal match against Halep, Williams was an automatic winner this week. Her courageous return to Indian Wells was one of the great moments in tennis in recent memory, and will surely go down as one of the highlights of the 2015 season. Once there, she played quite a few entertaining matches en route to the final four, including a competitive two-setter against the resurgent Timea Bacsinszky.
Sloane Stephens: B+
It was a very positive week for the heretofore slumping Sloane Stephens, winning three matches in Indian Wells. She scored solid wins over Angelique Kerber and Svetlana Kuznetsova before losing to Serena Williams in three sets in the fourth round. All who watch the young American can see her tremendous talent; this is a result she’s more than capable of duplicating. Will she?
Timea Bacsinszky: A
Before losing to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals, it appeared as if Bacsinszky would never lose a match again. The Swiss, who was coming off back to back titles in Acapulco and Monterrey, won her first three matches of the week from a set down – beating Makarova and Elina Svitolina along the way. Bacsinszky’s 2015 season has been inspiring to watch and doesn’t look like she’s ready to slow down anytime soon.
Agnieszka Radwanska: C
The Pole’s 2015 woes spread to Indian Wells when she fell to Britain’s Heather Watson in straight sets in the third round. Watson is a budding talent, but Radwanska will surely be upset at not taking advantage of a tournament with conditions that really suit her game well.
Sabine Lisicki: A-
To say Sabine Lisicki’s 2015 season had been less than ideal entering Indian Wells would be a massive understatement – winning just one match in a little less than three months. The German really turned it around in the desert, reaching the semifinals, defeating Sara Errani, Caroline Garcia and Flavia Pennetta along the way.
Ana Ivanovic: D
For the second straight event, Ana Ivanovic, seeded fifth at Indian Wells, was beaten by the talented Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia. The Serb is quickly spurning much of the momentum she gained heading out of 2014, and is in danger of entering another protracted slump.
Jelena Jankovic: A
Jelena Jankovic was one game away from securing one of the biggest titles of her career – and her first in quite a few years. Despite being unable to close out Halep in the final, Jankovic’s surprising run to the final was one to remember. The Serb took advantage of a relatively eased up draw and won the matches she was supposed to win.
Flavia Pennetta: A-
Last year’s Indian Wells champion Flavia Pennetta didn’t defend her title, but she did reach the quarterfinals, and had three chances to reach the semis before losing to Sabine Lisicki in a third set tiebreak. The highlight of the week for Pennetta was beating No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova in the fourth round – marking her third straight victory over the Russian.
How would you have marked the field? Sound off in the comments!