Although everything appeared to be in order after the Australian Open with No. 1 seeds Roger Federer and Serena Williams winning, the spring Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami opened up a lot of questions, considering the mass number of unexpected early exists. So where do we stand after a quarter of a season? Here are our grades:
Critics might be talking about how Federer blew match points in Indian Wells and Miami, Masters Events in which he was sent packing by Marcos Baghdatis in the second round and Tomas Berdych in the fourth round. Fair enough, but Federer only has eyes for the majors these days, and on that score he's one-for-one. Perfect, as usual.
Rafael Nadal: B
After retiring from his quarterfinal match in Australia with a knee injury, Rafa reached back-to-back semifinals on the hard courts of Indian Wells and Miami. During the hard-court swing, in which he lost to the eventual champion both times, Rafa was not only hitting with his trademark dipping spin, but also showing more confidence in ripping backhands and mixing up his serves.
Andy Roddick: A-minus
Can you become the most improved player on tour at 27? Roddick is making a compelling case. On the heels of reaching the Indian Wells final, he won his first Masters Series title, in Miami, since Cincinnati in 2006. But it was the way Roddick won his matches there that impressed. Against Nadal in the semifinals, he flattened out his forehands and attacked the net at opportune times. In the final against the more erratic Berdych, he threw in slices and changes of pace, including off-speed kicking first serves for aces, to get the job done.
Novak Djokovic: B-minus
His grade depends on which Djoker you're talking about -- the one who played inspired tennis to beat Sam Querrey and John Isner to clinch the first-round Davis Cup tie for Serbia, or the one who has looked completely lost since then.
Andy Murray: B-minus
Perhaps the Scot is still recovering from that crushing defeat in the Australian Open final. There's also been speculation that he's coping with a niggling leg injury. Either way, Murray has failed to follow up his stellar run in Melbourne. In Dubai, he was criticized for admitting that he was working on his game in a loss to Janko Tipsarevic. On the hard courts in the U.S., he looked tentative and defensive, which led to him being outplayed by opponents Robin Soderling and Mardy Fish. At one point in his match against Fish, Murray yelled "What's going on?" That's what we'd like to know.
She earns top marks for the same reason Federer does -- she focuses all her energy on the Slams, and so far she's perfect.
Venus has been the most consistent performer on the WTA tour this season with wins in Dubai and Acapulco. Unfortunately, the 29-year-old paid the price in Miami, where she was wrapped up like a mummy in the final. Still, she deserves props for competing at such a high level when the next generation continues, for the most part, to fizzle out.
Is she punching above her weight at No. 2 in the world? Probably. But credit to Woz for using her consistent baseline game to grind down opponents. She reached the final of Indian Wells and came up just short of beating Henin in Miami.
The Belgians: B-plus
There have been two bright spots in women's tennis, and their names are Justine and Kim. They've had their hiccups since returning to the tour, but they've also delivered the best tennis, too. Just a shame their melodramatic Miami semifinal wasn't the blink-and-you'll-miss-it final.
Women's tennis: C-minus
Despite a shorter season, injuries continue to hamper the tour -- currently Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova are on the DL-- and the quality of tennis has been spotty at best. Hopefully we'll see a return to form of the tour's top players to keep the WTA from descending to its lowest point in recent, and not-so-recent, memory.