The First Quarter, the men on the top 20: Djokovic an A plus, but Gulbis an F?

Ferrer IW 15 MALT1366

Novak Djokovic A+

OK Djokovic lost to Karlovic in Doha and to Federer in Dubai, but when he was ready to rock and roll again in the three biggest tournaments – the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami – he was faster and nearly perfect inside the baseline. On hard courts he is phenomenal.

Roger Federer A- 
The great Swiss fought hard to win Brisbane, he was stunned by Seppi in the third round at the Australian Open, he was super consistent at winning Dubai over Djokovic, and reached the final at Indian Wells, when he lost to Novak in three entertaining sets. OK, he is not perfect by any means, but he is 33 years old and if he is close versus the 27-year-old Djokovic then you have to clap your hands and say ‘The old guy still has a real Slam left in him.’

Andy Murray B+
The Britain has been pretty consistent this year, reaching the final of the Aussie Open, the semis of Indian Wells and the final of Miami. He is whipping his backhand, his forehand is stronger and he is willing to charge the net. However, he fell to Djokovic in all three big matches, and lost 6-0 at the end of the Aussie and IW encounters. He looks better
than he was in 2014, but he hasn’t figured out exactly how he can bother Novak when it’s crunch time.

David Ferrer B+
Just when you thought that the 33-year-old would start to sink he is right back in there. He won Doha, Rio and Acapulco. He wasn’t great at the Aussie Open, IW and Miami, but he is hacking away, every time out.

Kei Nishikori B
If this was last year, maybe he would be given an B+, but during the last few months, the Japanese 25-year-old was OK, but not great. When you are ranked No. 4, it means being ready to win some big titles, but he hasn’t been able to challenge the big boys, losing to Wawrinka, Ferrer, Lopez, Isner and splitting with Raonic. Yes he won at Memphis against Anderson, yes he was ambitious at the Davis Cup but at the Aussie Open, IW and Miami, he was so-so.

Rafa Nadal B 
In the second half in 2014, the Spaniard had a very tough season. He was very hurt and he knew when he would come back he wasn’t going to be 100 percent in 2015. In the past three months, he has been OK, but as he said, he is a little scared. He is not swinging away with his backhand, his forehand is up and down and he needs to be more aggressive.He lost to Berdych at the Aussie Open, he lost to Raonic at the IW and to Fernando Verdasco at Miami. Unusual, but the former No. 1 is trying hard.

Milos Raonic B 
The Canadian was oh-so-close, winning some fine players, and barely losing to the top competitors. He lost against Federer twice at Brisbane and Indian Wells, Djokovic had his number at the Aussie Open, and he was right there against Wawrinka at Rotterdam. But he split with Nishikori and upended Nadal at Indian Wells. Raonic and Isner played a terrific match at Miami where the big boys went at it all night. If the Canadian improves a little bit, he could be besting the Big 4 frequently.

Tomas Berdych B
The 29-year-old Czech has been pretty consistent, only losing to the top 10ers:   Ferrer, Murray (twice), Wawrinka, Djokovic and Federer. None of the guys outside of  top 10 were able to twist Tomas, but he was only able to stun one of the majors, shocking Rafa at the Australian. Pretty good, but not spectacular.

Stanislas Wawrinka B 
The bazooka backhand came outof the gates in January, winning Chennai, reaching the Aussie semis (although he disappeared in the fifth set against Novak) and then he won Rotterdam. But he flamed out during Marseille, IW and Miami. He can be terrific, but he overplays.

John Isner B 
The American had lost a lot of confidence after Davis Cup against Britain, but he vowed that he was coming
together and he was, beating Anderson at IW and at Miami, he bested Dimitrov, Nishikori and Raonic before falling to Djokovic. That saved his season.

Feliciano Lopez C+
‘Feli’ is 33 years old and he is so much more intelligent on court. However while he did reach the final of Ecuador on
clay and he upset Nishikori at IW, he’s lost fairly early overall.

Gilles Simon C+

The French veteran started very slowly, but he did win Marseille in a terrific final over Monfils. But other than that, you tell me.

Kevin Anderson C
The tall hard hitter rarely loses to the unknown players, but he only won one against of the top 30 – Richard Gasquet – and you know he has to play better if he ever is going to knock down the big boys.

Gael Monfils C- 
OK, Gael was hurt again (stunner) and he did reach the final of Marseille. He also won a big match over Kohlschreiber in the Davis Cup, but he was in and out all the time.

Roberto Bautista Agut   D+ 
The 26-year-old Spaniard had a   terrific year in 2014, but he has done very little in the first three months, not playing on clay in South America.   He didn’t win a notable contest on the hard courts either.

Grigor Dimitrov D+ 
Admittedly , the Bulgarian is changing his strokes and that takes time. At least he is being honest, so you can’t expect him to be winning tournaments. However, he gets frustrated and he has done nothing during the first three months. At all.

Tommy Robredo D
The 32-year-old Spaniard went 4-6, beating three guys outside of the top 90 and one top 11 in the slumping Dimitrov.   He is slumping, too.

Ernests Gulbis F  
He is 1-7 this year and he lost to anywhere, anytime. He has to go back to square one.

Marin Cilic – Incomplete
After the Croat had a shoulder injury, the US Open champion just came back in IW, losing in the first round.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – Incomplete
The Frenchman is also just coming back from injury, returning in Miami, where he lost in the second round. He is very good, but he is always hurt.

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