Tennis

Wimbledon 2014: Final Grades for Top Stars at All England Club

Jake CurtisFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2014

Wimbledon 2014: Final Grades for Top Stars at All England Club

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Novak Djokovic regained the No. 1 ranking with his victory over Roger Federer, but was his performance throughout Wimbledon worthy of an A grade? Should Petra Kvitova get a higher grade based on her dominant performance in the women's finals? And how should the disappointing showings of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal be rated?

    We graded nine women and eight men on their 2014 Wimbledon performances. How far they advanced in the tournament was the primary factor in the grading, but we also considered the quality of opposition they faced and how they fared relative to expectations.

    The most prominent men's and women's players received grades, as did all four semifinalists in both singles categories. The lone exception was Nick Kyrgios, who only advanced to the quarterfinals but deserved to be included after acquiring a degree of star status for his two big upsets.

    The players are presented in inverse order of the grade they received, with the highest grade awarded to the last player listed.

     

Victoria Azarenka

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    The Wimbledon expectations were limited for Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion and former No. 1 player whose career has hit the skids since reaching the finals of the U.S. Open last year.

    Injuries have played a major role in Azarenka's recent struggles, although she began slumping before the health issues intervened. She was forced to withdraw from the French Open because of a recurring foot problem, and her only match in the past five months was a first-round loss in a grass-court tuneup event at Eastbourne.

    She reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2011 and 2012, but she lost in the second round last year and her ranking had plummeted to No. 9 since being ranked No. 2 as recently as February.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    Considering her lack of success and limited court time in 2014, Azarenka's 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, second-round loss to Bojana Jovanovski was not particularly surprising. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Azarenka's loss to the No. 45-ranked player was that she blew a 40-0 lead on her serve in the match's final game.

    How Azarenka does in the hard court season, including the U.S. Open, will provide a better indication of her chances of regaining her form.

     

    Final Grade: C-

Serena Williams

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    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    Serena Williams entered Wimbledon as the No. 1-ranked player by a wide margin, and she had won five Wimbledon titles, including three of the past five. Even though she had lost in the second round of the French Open and the fourth round of the Australian Open, Williams was the favorite to win Wimbledon, where her big serve could carry her on the fast grass surface.

    Williams did not play any grass-court warmup events after the French Open, but she had not played any grass-court tournaments leading up to her Wimbledon title runs in 2009, 2010 and 2012 either.

    The only uncertainty regarding Williams was her ability to maintain her focus against players she was expected to dominate. She had developed a habit of losing to lower-ranked players at major tournaments.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    Williams' year took another disappointing turn as she lost to No. 25-seeded Alize Cornet 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the third round. It was Williams' earliest exit at Wimbledon in nine years and continued her recent trend of losing in majors to players ranked considerably lower than her.

    Williams seems to have no trouble against the elite players, boasting a 13-0 record in Grand Slam events since the start of 2009 against players ranked in the top six. However, the loss to Cornet represented her sixth defeat in the last nine majors to a player ranked outside the top 20.

    Overconfidence should not have been an issue this time, since Cornet had defeated Williams in Dubai in February. Williams dominated the first set this time, but could not finish off Cornet, who came into the match with an 0-13 record against top-20 players in Grand Slam events.

    This is the second straight year Williams, 32, failed to reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. More significantly, Williams has failed to reach the quarterfinals in any of the Grand Slam events this year. It puts pressure on Williams to perform well at the U.S. Open.

    Aside from 2006, when she played in just two Grand Slam events, Williams has reached the quarterfinals in at least one major tournament every year since 1998, when she was 16 years old. Williams' fourth-round loss to Ana Ivanovic in Australia this year could be attributed to injury issues. The recent early losses at the French Open and Wimbledon are more difficult to explain.

    “I felt I was playing pretty well,” Williams said after her Wimbledon loss, according to the New York Times. “I worked really hard coming into this event. Sometimes it happens. You work hard. Maybe it’s not for today; it’s for tomorrow.”

     

    Final Grade: C-

     

     

Rafael Nadal

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    Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    As the world's No. 1 player and someone who had won Wimbledon twice (2008 and 2010) and had reached the finals three other times, Rafael Nadal was among the prime contenders for the 2014 Wimbledon crown.

    He had been dominant again during the clay-court season, winning his ninth French Open crown. However, there were some doubts about his prospects at Wimbledon this time. He had been the victim of major upsets at Wimbledon the past two years, losing to Steve Darcis in the first round in 2013 and to Lukas Rosol in the second round in 2012.

    In his only grass-court tuneup this year, Nadal lost his opening match to 85th-ranked Dustin Brown 6-4, 6-1 in Halle, Germany.

    Nadal seems to struggle at Wimbledon in the early rounds, when the grass is still slick and green. Once the baseline area turns brown in the later rounds, Nadal seems more comfortable. Even in the years that he won Wimbledon, Nadal had some close calls in the first week. Whether Nadal could survive to the late rounds was the issue.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    Nadal had another disappointing Wimbledon, losing to a player ranked No. 100 or lower for the third straight year.

    He was less than dominant in any of his matches, yielding a set in each of his victories in the first three rounds. But he seemed to be getting stronger as the tournament progressed, which has been his habit at Wimbledon.

    Nadal did not look like the No. 1 player in the round of 16, though, losing to wild-card entrant Nick Kyrgios, 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3. The 19-year-old Kyrgios was ranked No. 144, making him the lowest-ranked man in 22 years to beat the No. 1 player at a Grand Slam tournament.

    Kyrgios had a distinguished junior career, displaying the potential to be a star some day. But he was not expected to take out Nadal at a major event at this stage of his career. Kyrgios had played mostly Challenger tournaments this year, and had won only one match in the main draw of his three previous world tour events in 2014.

    Nadal could not handle the big serve of Kyrgios, who was playing Wimbledon for the first time.

    "The thing is, this surface, when you have an opponent who decides to serve and to hit every ball very strong, you are in trouble," Nadal said, according to ESPN.com. 

     

    Final Grade: C-

Li Na

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    Nobody knew quite what to expect from Li Na at Wimbledon. She was ranked No. 2 in the world and had won the Australian Open in January. However, she had lost in the first round of the French Open to a player ranked No. 103 (Kristina Mladenovic) and had never advanced past the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. She had not played any tournaments since her loss at the French Open.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    Li's third-round departure from Wimbledon was fairly consistent with her past results at the All England Club, and represented an improvement from her showing at Roland Garros. However, a player seeded No. 2 has to be unhappy with a failure to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam event.

    After getting past No. 38-ranked Yvonne Meusburger with a convincing 6-2, 6-2, second-round victory, Li lost to No. 43-ranked Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5).

    Losing in a pair of tiebreakers to a top-50 player who is pretty good on grass (Zahlavova Strycova reached the finals at Birmingham in a grass-court tuneup in June) is not as embarrassing as Li's 6-2, 6-2 loss to Mladenovic in Paris. But it still rates as a disappointing result, especially since Li had won both of her previous matches against Zahlavova Strycova.

    The Guardian described Li's showing in her loss as "a perplexing, scattergun performance."

    “I think sometimes I don’t know how to play the point, especially in the important moments,” Li said afterward, according The Guardian. “I think today I make a lot of mistakes."

    The match seemed to be over when a Li forehand was called long on match point. But Li challenged the call, and it was reversed after replays showed the ball hit the line. The point was replayed with Zahlovova Strycova leading the tiebreaker 6-5. But Li was unable to take advantage of the turn of events, double-faulting on the replayed point to give the match away.

    Courtney Nguyen wrote on SI.com that Li's "lack of confidence on the surface [grass] is magnified in tight moments."

    Li has one Grand Slam title under her belt in 2014, but she has had two subpar performances in majors since then, making you wonder what lies ahead for the 32-year-old player.

     

    Final Grade: C

Agnieszka Radwanska

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    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    Agnieszka Radwanska was certainly not the favorite at Wimbledon, but her No. 4 ranking and recent results at Wimbledon suggested she could be a factor. She had beaten Li Na before losing to Sabine Lisicki in the Wimbledon semifinals last year, and she reached the Wimbledon finals in 2012, losing to Serena Williams in three sets in the title match.

    Radwanska reached the semifinals of this year's Australian Open, but was eliminated in the third round of the French Open and lost in the first round of her only grass-court tuneup event at Eastbourne.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    Radwanska failed to live up to her seeding, losing decisively in the round of 16 to No. 22-seeded Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-0.

    Radwanska rolled through her first three matches, including an impressive, 6-4, 6-0, second-round victory over 36th-ranked Casey Dellacqua. However, the optimism provided by those early performances came to an abrupt end when Radwanska was easily defeated by Makarova.

    Radwanska won just four points in three service games in the second set, and the match lasted just 53 minutes, not including a rain interruption.

     

    Final Grade: C

Maria Sharapova

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    Maria Sharapova had won three of her last four tournaments before Wimbledon, including the French Open. Even though all four of those events were on clay, she was considered a contender at Wimbledon. She had reached the Wimbledon finals as recently as 2011 and she had won it back in 2004.

    Grass is not her best surface, and she had lost to qualifier Michelle Larcher De Brito in the second round of Wimbledon last year. But Sharapova has the game and mental toughness to win it.

    One problem was the draw, because the No. 5-seeded Sharapova was placed in the same quarterfinal bracket as Serena Williams. Sharapova has lost to Williams 14 times in a row, including twice on grass in that span.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    Sharapova got a break when Williams lost in the third round, which seemed to clear the Russian's path to the finals. However, Sharapova was unable to capitalize, losing to No. 9-seeded Angelique Kerber in the fourth round.

    Several factors made her 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 loss to Kerber surprising. First of all, Sharapova had had success against Kerber, winning their past three meetings and beating Kerber in their only previous Grand Slam encounter at the 2012 Australian Open.

    Sharapova seemed to have more weapons that would be effective on grass than Kerber, who relies on consistent, defensive tennis. Sharapova had 57 winners in the match, but she also had 47 unforced errors, to just 11 for Kerber.

    Secondly, the former Wimbledon champion was playing well heading into that match. She dominated her first three opponents, losing just seven games total and no more than three in any one match. 

    Finally, Sharapova had been particularly tough in long matches, having won 11 straight three-set matches before facing Kerber. Sharapova fought off six match points against Kerber, including a triple-match point with the No. 5 seed serving at 4-5, 0-40 down in the third set.

    It seemed Sharapova's ability to win the big points in a long, tense match might save her. It did not, as Kerber finished off Sharapova on her seventh match-point opportunity.

     

    Final Grade: C+

Andy Murray

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    Andy Murray was the defending Wimbledon champion, the runner-up in 2012 and a semifinalist in each of the three years before that. Those results as well as the support (and pressure) of playing in front of the partisan British crowd put him in the contender category.

    However, his mediocre performances since becoming the first British man in 77 years to capture a Wimbledon singles last year title pushed him out of the role of favorite.

    His semifinal berth in the French Open provided optimism, and his chances at Wimbledon received a boost when his grass-court success the past two years earned him a No. 3 seed at Wimbledon, guaranteeing that he would not have to face Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic until at least the semifinals.

    On the downside, Murray lost to Radek Stepanek in his second match of his only grass-court warm-up event at Queen's Club. There was also the uncertainty of how the coaching change would affect Murray's play. He had parted ways with coach Ivan Lendl in March, and had enlisted the services of Amelie Mauresmo shortly before the start of Wimbledon.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    Anything less than a second Wimbledon title would rate as a disappointment to British tennis fans, and losing in straight sets to No. 11-seeded Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals is not what they had in mind.

    Murray had been impressive in his run to the quarterfinals, winning all four matches in straight sets, including a 6-1, 6-1, 6-0, second-round thumping of Blaz Rola.

    Those matches got the hopes up for Murray and the British fans. But Murray let Dimitrov jump on top early in the quarterfinals, and the Scot simply made too many errors to get back in the contest, losing 6-1, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.

    "I should have done a better job at the beginning of the match of making it tougher for him, and I didn't manage to do that," Murray said, according to the BBC account.

    Not only was the loss decisive, but it represented Murray's earliest departure at Wimbledon since 2008, when he lost to Nadal in the quarterfinals. It also poses the question of whether winning Wimbledon and being the toast of Great Britain last year resulted in a letdown. He has been eliminated in the quarterfinals in three of the four Grand Slam events since then and got to the finals in none of them. 

     

    Final Grade: B-

Stanislas Wawrinka

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    Toby Melville/Associated Press

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    Even though Stanislas Wawrinka had risen to No. 3 in the rankings and had won his first Grand Slam title with an impressive showing at the Australian Open in January, his past performances at Wimbledon suggested he was a long shot to challenge for the title at the All England Club.

    Wawrinka had lost in the first round at Wimbledon the past two years and in three of the last four years. The only exception in that span was a second-round loss to Simone Bolelli, who was ranked No. 116 at the time.

    He was seeded No. 5 at Wimbledon because of his poor results on grass the past two years.

    His first-round loss in the French Open this year did not offer any optimism either. Wawrinka did get to the semifinals of a grass-court tuneup at Queen's Cub, but he beat no one in the top 50 in the process and lost decisively to Grigor Dimitrov in that tournament.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    Wawrinka lived up to his seeding by getting to the quarterfinals, and that has to count as an uplifting result after his past difficulties at Wimbledon. He even gave fellow Swiss star Roger Federer a challenge in the quarterfinals, winning the first set before tiring and falling 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-4.

    Wawrinka lost only one set over his first four matches of the tournament. That included an impressive 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 fourth-round victory over the No. 19 seed, Feliciano Lopez, who had won the grass-court tuneup at Eastbourne the week before Wimbledon and had been a finalist on the grass at Queen's Club the week before that.

    Because of rain delays, Wawrinka's match against Federer was his third in three days, and Wawrinka seemed to wear down in his quarterfinal match.

    “I must say he played a great first two sets," Federer said on the ATP website. "He struggled with his fitness after that. He was hitting the ball too cleanly for me to do anything. I had to wait two and a half sets to get the first break."

     

    Final Grade: B

Simona Halep

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    Jan Kruger/Getty Images

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    Simona Halep is a rising star who seems destined to win a Grand Slam in the near future. The 2014 Wimbledon event looked like it might be the one. Ranked No. 64 in May 2013, she had climbed all the way to No. 3 in 13 months. Her berth in the 2014 French Open finals, where she lost to Maria Sharapova, indicated she was on the verge of breaking through.

    Halep lost in the second round at Wimbledon last year, but she had won a grass-court event in the Netherlands immediately before that, suggesting should could win on that surface. She had to retire in the second round of her grass-court tuneup this year, citing a shoulder injury.

    Halep had yet to prove she could beat Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, who have a combined 7-0 record against her, and both were in her half of the draw at Wimbledon.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    Physical problems may have ruined this Wimbledon for Halep.

    The draw opened up for Halep when Sharapova and Williams were upset victims, and Halep got to the semifinals. While a semifinal berth at Wimbledon has to be considered a good result for anyone, this seemed like a missed opportunity for the 22-year-old Halep to claim her first major title.

    She was ousted by another rising star, Eugenie Bouchard, who was not ranked among the top 10 and had lost to Halep at Indian Wells earlier this year in their only previous meeting. But Halep sprained her ankle in the fourth game of the semifinals and that added to the problems created by a thigh injury.

    "Halep’s movement, her defining quality, was clearly hampered," the Guardian reported in its account of the match. 

    The 20-year-old Bouchard, who presents a new obstacle in Halep's bid to reach the top of the women's game, beat the Romanian 7-6, 6-2

    Other than an inexplicable slump midway through her 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, second-round victory over 170th-ranked Lesia Tsurenko, Halep was impressive in her run to the semifinals.

    The bottom line is that Halep has reached at least the quarterfinals of all three Grand Slam events this year, including the finals and semifinals of the last two. It's a dramatic improvement over 2013, when she lost in the first round at the Australian and French Opens, the second round at Wimbledon and the round of 16 at the U.S. Open.

     

    Final Grade: B+

Lucie Safarova

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    Lucie Safarova was seeded No. 23 and had shown promise, but she was considered no more than a dark horse at Wimbledon. She had never advanced past the third round in her eight appearances at Wimbledon and had lost in the first round in five of them.

    She lost her opening match in both of her grass-court tournaments leading up to this year's Wimbledon, although she did take a set from Petra Kvitova at Eastbourne in her final warmup event.

    However, Safarova had demonstrated potential for success with some close losses. She came within a point of beating eventual Australian Open champion Li Na in this year's first Grand Slam event and had taken a set from Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep as well as Kvitova this season.

    She reached the round of 16 at the French Open, but she had not advanced as far as the semifinals of any event this year and had reached the quarterfinals of only two tournaments.

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    Safarova had the best performance of her career, getting to the semifinals of a Grand Slam event for the first time.

    She benefited from a favorable draw and had to beat only one top 20 player to reach the semifinals. However, she had a significant win in the third round, a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Dominika Cibulkova, a 2014 Australian Open finalist who was ranked No. 10.

    Safarova then dominated her next two opponents, beating unseeded Tereza Smitkova 6-0, 6-2 in the fourth round before dismissing No. 22-seeded Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-1 in 58 minutes in the quarterfinals.

    Safarova's close loss to Kvitova at Eastbourne suggested she had a chance against Kvitova in the Wimbledon semifinals, even though Kvitova had won all five previous meetings. But an inability to win the big points against high-quality opposition plagued her again as she lost a hard-fought first set 7-6 (8-6) before fading away and losing the second set 6-1.

    Despite the loss, Safarova's victory over Cibulkova and one-sided wins in the fourth round and quarterfinals constituted an outstanding showing for the 27-year-old Czech player.

     

    Final Grade: B+

Milos Raonic

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    Milos Raonic's big serve, his career-high No. 9 ranking and his quarterfinal berth at the 2014 French Open suggested Raonic might be a dark-horse candidate at Wimbledon. But he had done nothing to indicate he should be one of the favorites.

    He had never advanced past the second round in his three previous appearances at Wimbledon, losing to a player ranked outside the top 60 each time. In his only grass-court event leading up to this year's Wimbledon, Raonic lost his opening match in straight sets to 120th-ranked Peter Gojowczyk.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    Raonic's semifinal berth at Wimbledon represented his best result at a Grand Slam event and offered the promise of greater success on fast courts in the future. It also built upon his quarterfinal berth at the French Open, which had been his best showing at a major before Wimbledon.

    Raonic benefited from the fact that Rafael Nadal was eliminated before their potential quarterfinal meeting, and Raonic did not have to beat any top-10 players to reach the semifinals. Furthermore, Raonic was outclassed in the semifinals by Roger Federer in a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 defeat. Raonic needed to serve well to be a threat against Federer, and that did not happen.

    “I usually serve better, but he came with the right shots every single time," Raonic said, according to the Canadian Press account. "He hit returns that didn’t allow me to get into the match.”

    Raonic's best wins in the tournament were four-set victories over 12th-ranked Kei Nishikori and Nadal conqueror Nick Kyrgios.

     

    Final Grade: B+

Nick Kyrgios

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    Even though Nick Kyrgios had an outstanding junior career, no one expected a 19-year-old wild-card entrant to make a major impact at Wimbledon. He was ranked No. 144, had lost in the second round of the Australian Open and the first round of the French Open and had never played at Wimbledon.

    Kyrgios was relegated to Challenger events for the most part this year. He earned his wild card into Wimbledon by winning the grass-court Challenger event in Nottingham, although he beat no one ranked in the top 120 in the process.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    The promise Kyrgios showed as a junior materialized in a big way at the 2014 Wimbledon event. He was the surprise of the tournament, getting to the quarterfinals and pulling off the biggest upset of the event. The 6'5" Australian displayed a serve that could make him a force at future Wimbledons, firing 37 aces in his shocking  7–6, 5–7, 7–6, 6–3 victory over No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the fourth round.

    "I'm playing some unbelievable tennis on the grass," he said in an interview after beating Nadal.

    Kyrgios had already surpassed expectations by winning his first three matches, which included an upset of No. 13-seeded Richard Gasquet in the second round. Gasquet was ranked No. 9 in the world just two months earlier and had reached the U.S. Open semifinals last year.

    Kyrgios rallied after being down two sets to love and set a Wimbledon Open-era record for the most match points saved. He turned away nine match points against him in a 3-6, 6-7, 6-4, 7-5, 10-8 victory.

    “In the future he can be top five. He can win a Grand Slam [event], of course," Gasquet said afterward, according to the News Corp Australia report that appeared in the Herald Sun.

    Kyrgios succumbed in four sets to Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals, but has become the hope of Australia, which is thirsting for another tennis star like Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and Roy Emerson.

    His final grade is based on his two big wins and the degree to which he exceeded expectations as much as it is on how far he advanced in the tournament.

     

    Final Grade: A-

Grigor Dimitrov

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    Big things have been predicted for Grigor Dimitrov for some time, and there were hints that a breakthough might come in the 2014 Wimbledon.

    Dimitrov's versatile all-court game and one-handed backhand seem suited to grass and are often likened to the style that brought greatness to Roger Federer. But Dimitrov had never advanced past the second round in his four previous appearances at Wimbledon, and he had lost in the first round of this year's French Open. He remained outside the top 10, entering Wimbledon with a No. 13 ranking and No. 11 seeding.

    However, he did reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open this year, representing his best performance at a Grand Slam event, and he won the grass-court event at Queen's Club that preceded this year's Wimbledon.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    By getting to the semifinals and beating Andy Murray along the way, Dimitrov had by far his best showing at a Grand Slam event, indicating he is capable of winning a major title.

    Dimitrov showed grit by coming back from a two-sets-to-one deficit against No. 21-seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov in the third round, dominating the final two sets in a 6-7, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory.

    Dimitrov then produced the biggest victory of his career by taking out defending Wimbledon champion and No. 3-seeded Murray in straight sets in the quarterfinals in front of the partisan British crowd. Dimitrov was in complete control in the first and third sets of the 6-2, 7-6, 6-1 victory, although Murray's substandard play certainly aided Dimitrov's cause.

    "You're looking at a new superstar in our sport," John McEnroe said of Dimitrov on ESPN after the match. "He outplayed Andy Murray, as simple as that."

    Dimitrov caused problems for Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, but he demonstrated an inability to come up with big shots at critical moments in the 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 loss. Dimitrov played a loose tiebreaker in the pivotal third set, then let four set-point opportunities slip away in the fourth set.

    He missed a service return on set point in the 10th game, then let a triple-set-point chance get away in the tiebreaker after getting ahead 6-3. The Bulgarian then lost four points in a row and six of the next seven to lose the match.

     

    Final Grade: A-

Eugenie Bouchard

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    Sang Tan/Associated Press

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    Eugenie Bouchard's rapid rise in the rankings to No. 13 and her success in the first two Grand Slam events of the year suggested she might win a major in the near future. She had reached the semifinals of both the Australian Open and French Open, losing to the eventual champion in both cases.

    Her aggressive game, which included powerful, flat ground strokes and an ability to take the ball early, seemed suited to grass-court tennis.

    However, it was still too early to make bold predictions for the 20-year-old Bouchard, who had lost in the third round of her only previous Wimbledon appearance in 2013 and had lost her first-round match in a grass-court tuneup tournament in the Netherlands preceding this year's Wimbledon.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    Bouchard's lopsided 6-3, 6-0 loss to Petra Kvitova in the finals took some of the luster from what had been an outstanding performance at Wimbledon.

    Bouchard did not lose a set in her six matches leading up to the finals, and she beat four seeded players along the way. Her 7-6, 6-2 semifinal victory over No. 3-ranked Simona Halep represented a personal breakthrough because it was her first career win over a player ranked in the top seven. The fact that Halep was slowed by ankle and thigh injuries detracted a bit from that accomplishment, however.

    No player in the world has been as consistent as Bouchard in Grand Slam events this year. She is the only female player to reach at least the semifinals in all three majors, and she got to the finals in the biggest one.

    Halep is the only other woman who has even reached the quarterfinals in all three Grand Slam events in 2014. Bouchard will move up to No. 7 in the rankings, a huge jump for someone ranked outside the top 100 just 14 months ago.

    The one-sided loss to Kvitova indicated Bouchard has some flaws, though. Besides improving her serve, Bouchard needs to incorporate some variety in her game to take a power player like Kvitova out of her rhythm. The fact that the Canadian seemed pained by the result and was not satisfied just to reach the Wimbledon finals suggests she will make the needed adjustments.

     

    Final Grade: A-

Roger Federer

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    Toby Melville/Associated Press

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    Roger Federer played better in the first half of 2014 than he had in 2013, providing hope that he could capture a record eighth Wimbledon title. Federer beat Andy Murray while reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open, and he won the grass-court tuneup in Halle, Germany, although he did not beat any top-10 players to do it.

    Losing to Ernests Gulbis in the round of 16 at the French Open was disappointing, and the fact remained that Federer had not reached the finals in any of his last seven Grand Slam events. At age 32 (he turns 33 in August), Federer faced questions about whether he would win another Grand Slam title.

    This year's Wimbledon seemed like his best chance, because his only major title since 2010 was achieved at the All England Cub in 2012.

    As the No. 4 seed, Federer knew he would not have to face Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic until at least the semifinals, and he already owned two wins over Djokovic this year.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    Federer came close to achieving his greatest Wimbledon victory, if you consider his age and his struggles over the past two years. He played some of the best tennis of his career while advancing to a Grand Slam finals for the first time since winning Wimbledon in 2012 and for just the third time in his last 18 majors.

    He blew through the first six rounds, losing only one set, that coming in his quarterfinal match against No. 5 seed Stanislas Wawrinka. Federer controlled the final two sets of that match for a 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory, then rolled past No. 8-seeded Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals.

    Federer nearly pulled off a memorable comeback in the finals against No. 2-seeded Novak Djokovic. Federer faced match point against him in the fourth set and saved it by serving an ace that was originally called out before Federer's challenge revealed it had hit the back of the service line. He then broke serve to claim the set.

    In the final set, Federer saved three break points against him in the eighth game, the latter coming when Federer boldly played serve-and-volley on a second serve.

    Federer ultimately lost the match 6-7, 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4, but he proved he is still capable of winning an 18th Grand Slam title, a notion that had been virtually discarded a year ago.

     

    Final Grade: A

Petra Kvitova

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    Even though Petra Kvitova had lost in the first round of the Australian Open and the third round at the French Open, she was considered a contender at Wimbledon because she had performed so well at the event in the past.

    She won Wimbledon in 2011 and had reached at least the quarterfinals each of the past four years. Her power game is best suited to grass courts, where her lack of mobility is less of a handicap.

    Nonetheless, you still did not know exactly what you would get from Kvitova, who has had an up-and-down career. She had not reached the finals of a single tournament in 2014 coming into Wimbledon. The Czech star won two matches in the grass-court tuneup at Eastbourne, then withdrew because of a hamstring injury. Kvitova did not believe the injury would affect her at Wimbledon.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    Not only did Kvitova win her second Wimbledon title, but her 6-3, 6-0 victory over up-and-coming Eugenie Bouchard in the title match was one of the most dominant performances in a Wimbledon finals.

    Not since Steffi Graf took out Monica Seles 6-2, 6-1 in 1992 has a women's champion yielded as few as three games in the Wimbledon finals. Graf's victory took 58 minutes; Kvitova needed just 55 minutes to take out Bouchard, who had not lost a set in her first six matches but could not handle Kvitova's power.

    Kvitova had 28 winners in a match that featured only 98 points and was the shortest Wimbledon finals in terms of time since Martina Navratilova dispatched Andrea Jaeger in 50 minutes in 1983.

    The 24-year-old Kvitova had shown her toughness earlier in the tournament when she was two points from defeat in a third-round match against five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams. Serving at 4-5, 15-30 in the second set after losing the first, Kvitova rallied for a 5-7, 7-6, 7-5 triumph.

    The only factor that detracts from Kvitova's title run is that she did not have to face a single top-10 player along the way.

    Kvitova, who had dropped out of the top 10 last September, will move up to No. 4 in the rankings. The question now is whether she can maintain this high level of play on other surfaces and other Grand Slam events.

     

    Final Grade: A

Novak Djokovic

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    Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    2014 Wimbledon Expectations

    Novak Djokovic entered Wimbledon ranked No. 2 in the world with a chance to regain the No. 1 spot if several things worked out in his favor. His consistent excellence as well as his six Grand Slam singles titles, including a 2011 victory at Wimbledon, made him one of the favorites this year at Wimbledon.

    He had reached at least the semifinals in 15 of the last 16 Grand Slam events, making it almost a forgone conclusion that he would advance deep into the 2014 Wimbledon.

    However, Djokovic had not won a major since the 2013 Australian Open, going five straight Grand Slam events without a crown and winning just one of the last nine.

    Since his disappointing quarterfinal loss to Stanislas Wawrinka in the Australian Open, Djokovic had won three tournaments and lost just three matches: two to Roger Federer and one to Rafael Nadal.

    The Serb did not play any grass-court events leading up to Wimbledon, his last match being the four-set loss to Nadal in the French Open finals. Djokovic has not played any grass-court warmup tournaments the past several years, and that includes 2011, when he won Wimbledon.

     

    2014 Wimbledon Performance

    Djokovic's performance while winning his second Wimbledon title was admirable more for his grit and resilience than for the quality of his play.

    In truth, the 27-year-old did not play his best tennis through the first six rounds, and he benefited from the fact that he did not have to face a top-10 player to get to the finals. Nonetheless, he found a way to get through in some difficult circumstances.

    He got past Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals after being down two sets to one, scratching out a 6-1, 3-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-2 victory.

    “You're fighting on the court as much as your opponent, and you try to just mentally be strong and find that inner strength that can help you in those particular moments,” Djokovic told the BBC as reported on the ATP website. "That's what helped me.”

    Djokovic was erratic in his semifinal match against No. 11-seeded Grigor Dimitrov and was down a triple-set point in the fourth set when the Bulgarian had a 6-3 lead in the tiebreaker. Djokovic again survived 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6, rallying to win the fourth-set tiebreaker 9-7.

    Djokovic played his best tennis in the riveting finals against Federer, who had beaten Djokovic twice this year. But again it was Djokovic's resilience that saved him. He let a match-point opportunity get away in the fourth set when Federer aced him, and he squandered three break-point opportunities in the eighth game of the final set after staking himself to a 15-40 lead.

    Despite those disappointments and a leg injury that limited his mobility early in the final set, Djokovic persevered for a 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4 victory that ended his streak of five straight Grand Slam appearances without a title.

    "After losing the fourth set it wasn't easy to go on and win the fifth set, I don't know how I did it," Djokovic said, according to an ABC report.

    Djokovic had lost his last three Grand Slam finals and five of his past six, and this victory answered questions about his toughness in pressure moments.

    Although the quality of Djokovic's play throughout the tournament was not good enough to award him an A+, the fact that his victory returned him to the No. 1 spot in the rankings earns him the highest grade of the tournament, a few more percentage points than Kvitova on the final grade.

     

    Final Grade: A

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