Novak Djokovic feeling A-OK
There was no repeat of the Indian Wells and Miami double for Novak Djokovic. But the Serb still walked away as the Sony Ericsson Open champion, the perfect way to enter the clay-court season.
Victoria Azarenka couldn't do a Djokovic of 2011 and head into the dirt swing unbeaten, yet Azarenka far from disgraced herself in the U.S.
They lead the way as we hand out grades for Indian Wells and Miami, a tough monthlong stretch where conditions are dissimilar.
Novak Djokovic (A-): We didn't see the vintage Djokovic in Indian Wells and Miami. He was there in spurts. Still, the world No. 1 was one of only two men to reach the semis at both events and repeated in Miami. He'll raise his level on clay, especially nearing the French Open.
Roger Federer (B+): Even Federer gets tired. Fatigue played a role in his surprising loss to Andy Roddick in Miami, although the Swiss had Roddick on the ropes in the third set. He ended his two-year outdoor Masters drought by winning in Indian Wells, overcoming illness and crushing Rafa, again, in a best-of-three format.
Rafael Nadal (B+): Nadal's knee problems, he says, aren't as bad as in 2009, when he lost to Robin Soderling at the French and skipped Wimbledon. But it's a worrying development, given Nadal didn't pound the knees in February. Despite being weakened, Nadal, typically, battled to get to the semis in Indian Wells and Miami.
John Isner (B): The massive wins keep coming for Isner in 2012. First it was Federer in the Davis Cup -- in Switzerland. Then Isner upset Djokovic in Indian Wells to advance to a maiden Masters final, where he tested Federer. He needed a quarterfinal showing in Miami to back it up -- but didn't get past the third round.
Andy Murray (B-): Murray's loss to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in his Indian Wells opener came out of the blue: He'd reached the final in Dubai, easing fears that another post-Australian Open swoon was on the way. But Murray responded in Miami, albeit courtesy of Janko Tipsarevic's mini-collapse and Nadal's withdrawal.
Andy Roddick (B-): For Roddick, it was all about beating Federer in Miami. He won't dwell on the ensuing defeat to a hot Juan Monaco or loss to Tomas Berdych in Indian Wells. At times against Federer, the forehand looked as potent as it did in 2003. Finally healthy, Roddick, as he says, now needs to work on his match fitness.
Juan Martin del Potro (C+): Del Potro is finding it difficult to top the elite. But if not beating them, he should at least be making things closer. Del Potro was outclassed by Federer -- who he'll want to avoid on clay -- in Indian Wells and David Ferrer in Miami. In his six losses in 2012, the Argentine hasn't won a single set.
Mardy Fish (C): Fish pulled out of this week's Davis Cup quarterfinal against France because of what the USTA termed a "minor health scare" without elaborating, though it was made clear that Fish was tired. Did it affect him in his one-sided loss to Monaco in Miami, where Fish finally won back-to-back matches? He needed a boost in Florida, since Fish was ousted in the third round in Indian Wells by the improving -- yet much lower-ranked -- Matthew Ebden.
Victoria Azarenka (A-): Azarenka hit a wall in the quarterfinals in Miami, which was understandable after a physically and mentally taxing past three months. She could have rolled over against Dominika Cibulkova a round earlier but didn't. With more energy, Azarenka escaped in the second round in Indian Wells, then cruised. Rest up, Vika.
Agnieszka Radwanska (A-): Relief for Radwanska: She didn't have to play Azarenka in Miami. And with the world No. 1 out of the way, Radwanska quietly nabbed the title without surrendering a set. It likely made getting pummeled by Azarenka in Indian Wells easier to forget.
Maria Sharapova (B+): Sharapova was the solitary player, man or woman, to appear in the finals in Indian Wells and Miami. That's impressive. Along the way, she displayed her usual grit to dispatch the likes of Maria Kirilenko, Shahar Peer and Caroline Wozniacki. But, and here we go again, Sharapova couldn't win the big one or even take a set.
Venus Williams (B+): In her own words, simply playing Miami was a win for Williams. Once there, though, Venus did more than go through the motions. Toppling Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was good; beating Ana Ivanovic a day after going three hours against Aleksandra Wozniak -- with what appeared to be a calf injury -- went one better. Uplifting.
Marion Bartoli (B+): Bartoli had a fine Indian Wells and Miami and will be remembered as the player who ended Azarenka's 26-match winning streak. Since the clay-court season last year, the Frenchwoman's play has been consistently good. A shame, for Bartoli, that an adductor injury hampered her against Radwanska in Miami.
Serena Williams (B-): When Serena blasted 20 aces and eliminated Samantha Stosur in their first head-to-head since last year's contentious U.S. Open final, she was on the way to making it six titles in Miami. But Wozniacki made her hit a lot more balls and the unforced errors flowed. She was her typically gracious self in defeat.
Caroline Wozniacki (B-): After Ivanovic routed defending champion Wozniacki in Indian Wells, the Dane sought momentum in Miami. Wozniacki delivered, with help from a nervy Yanina Wickmayer. Conquering Serena in Miami isn't easy. Not so good, and not for the first time, Wozniacki exhibited her petulant side in the final game of her loss to Sharapova in the semis.
Petra Kvitova (C-): Kvitova and North America still don't mesh. She might have been sick, but Kvitova blew a lead against Christina McHale in California and couldn't take advantage of a rusty Venus Williams in Miami. It's now back to the more friendly confines of Europe.
Li Na (D): Quarterfinal results in Indian Wells and Miami would suggest that Li is finding her form. But the French Open champion was dreadful in losses to Angelique Kerber and Sharapova, committing a barrage of unforced errors. Watch her ranking plummet after this year's French.
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