Commentary

Not all A's for the game's elite

Updated: May 28, 2011, 3:05 PM ET
By Ravi Ubha | ESPN.com

Before Rafa arrived on the scene, the French Open was the widest open of the Grand Slams. Players would win their first and, in many cases, only major at Roland Garros.

Years later, the women are following suit. Francesca Schiavone surprised the tennis world last year, and odds are a debutant will be celebrating next Saturday given the elimination of Kim Clijsters.

Clijsters blew a huge lead against an inexperienced foe; a day later, Caroline Wozniacki's drought continued and Maria Sharapova was lucky to escape.

It was all part of a wacky first week.

Clijsters and Wozniacki, predictably, come out at the bottom of the class in our mid-tourney report card. Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are the top students.

Men

Novak Djokovic (A): There's no stopping the streaking Djokovic.

He passed his first test, and it was an imposing one, in the third round, overcoming 2009 U.S. Open champ Juan Martin del Potro in four sets.

Djokovic was at his two-way best, soaking up del Potro's power while taking it to the Argentine when given the opportunity.

Already up there, his confidence probably went up a notch.

Roger Federer (A): Federer has cruised, spending a combined 4 hours, 53 minutes on court. He's also played early in the day.

The combination should leave him with ample energy in the second week.

Federer was at his attacking best against Janko Tipsarevic in the third round, transitioning flawlessly and claiming 24 of 28 points at the net. His serve is earning him free points.

Of course, we're all waiting to see if he can get it done facing better opposition.

Rafael Nadal (C): For the first time in his career, or at least since becoming a Grand Slam champion, Nadal is looking anxious and nervous. Clearly four losses to Djokovic this year has left him reeling.

[+] EnlargeRafael Nadal
Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal doesn't look untouchable thus far, but there's a long way to go.

He suffered an uncharacteristic lapse in concentration against John Isner and was on the defensive throughout versus a journeyman, Pablo Andujar. The serve is off, and he's been predictable on the baseline.

Given his frailty, Saturday's win against a Croatian qualifier counts as a confidence booster.

Andy Murray (B+): Murray's display against Simone Bolelli in the second round was mediocre. If Bolelli, notoriously frail upstairs, had served out the opening set, the outcome might have been different. Bolelli also wasted a lead in the third.

But credit Murray for his resolve after rolling an ankle against Michael Berrer in the second set Saturday. He stuck to business -- and was forced to play the way critics want him to -- aggressively.

Time will tell whether Murray can mend enough to potentially threaten Rafa in the semis.

Women

Caroline Wozniacki (F): Wozniacki was defiant after getting pummeled by Daniela Hantuchova, saying she'd be back and better. That remains to be seen.

Bottom line: Wozniacki hasn't progressed enough to be able to dictate against the heavy hitters.

Her formula of beefing up training and playing almost every week during the clay-court season didn't produce the desired result.

She'll struggle, too, on Wimbledon's grass.

Maria Sharapova (B-): Is Sharapova a great competitor? Yes. In fact, she's one of the best in the business.

Yet her comeback from the dead against Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia in the second round had more to do with the 17-year-old getting nervy than a run of sustained brilliance.

She'll hope it was a turning point rather than a warning as the matches get tougher.

Kim Clijsters (D): Clijsters' defeat to Arantxa Rus proves she's still prone to throwing in stinkers at Grand Slams. The way Clijsters imploded in the final two sets, losing 11 of the final 12 games, was reminiscent of her meltdown against Nadia Petrova at last year's Australian Open.

In defense of Clijsters, weak as it is in trying to explain the collapse against a player outside the top 100, the banged-up Belgian hadn't competed for two months.

Francesca Schiavone (B+): Schiavone is playing with pressure. She's the defending champion, trying to prove last year wasn't an anomaly.

As such, she couldn't have asked for a better week.

Schiavone has surrendered 10 games, benefiting from some luck when Peng Shuai retired in the third round due to illness; a healthy Peng and Schiavone would have had her tiny, gesticulating hands full.

Her half of the draw is there for the taking.

Victoria Azarenka (B+): With the exits of Clijsters and Wozniacki, and Sharapova's near miss, Azarenka has received less attention.

Just the way she would have wanted it.

Azarenka has conceded a mere dozen games and is expected to ease past her next challenger, Ekaterina Makarova, in relatively straightforward fashion.

She's scheduled to meet Czech Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals, and the victor has a good shot of winning it all.

Samantha Stosur (C-): Who knows how much a cold affected Stosur; she's not one to make excuses.

Stosur somehow threw away a break lead in the third set against the exceedingly fragile Gisela Dulko in the third round. The Aussie needs to borrow a bit of fire from compatriots Lleyton Hewitt and Jarmila Gajdosova.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.