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May 25, 2013 Article

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Garros 2013 -- Countdown, Indicators, and Predictions
by Ray Bowers

Ray Bowers Photo
Ray Bowers

From the season's clay-court countdown to date, two candidates emerge as the prime favorites to capture the men's and women's singles at Garros 2013. Also evident is a picture indicating that the order of rank among the other leading contenders seems likely to undergo some healthy re-scrambling.
 
CLAY-SEASON COUNTDOWN -- THE MEN
 
The clay season began in February in Latin America. Interest focused on the return to competition of Rafael Nadal, 26, who had been sidelined for seven months with knee trouble. At Vina del Mar, Chile, Rafa reached the final but then lost to Horatio Zeballos in a well-contested three-setter. One week later in Sao Paulo, Nadal survived two split-setters early but then won the final by comfortable scores. Rafa then skipped Buenos Aires, won by David Ferrer in his first appearance in the circuit. But at Acapulco next, Rafa reasserted his past excellence, winning the tournament by defeating other Spanish stars Nicolas Almagro, David Ferrer, and three other opponents, all without loss of a set.
 
That Nadal's knee was better and that Rafa was at top form became clear when Rafa next won the Masters-level tournament at Indian Wells, California, played on hard surface. Back was Rafa's familiar heavy ground game, featuring plenty of zip in the attacking forehand. But there remained a disturbing wrapping on the troublesome Rafa knee. Indeed, Rafa next sat out Miami and the clay events in Houston and Casablanca, resting and preparing for the prime clay events in Europe.
 
Rafa's triumphant return made him our unofficial Il Primo -- our current king-of-the-hill among the male pros. But the official ATP #1 ranking, based on rolling-12-month results, still belonged to Novak Djokovic. Rafa and Novak would meet in mid-April, on the historic clay at Monte Carlo.
 
Monte Carlo
 
The Monte Carlo Masters was usually a happy time for Nadal, Rafa having captured that event in every one of the last eight years. Federer, now 31, was absent this year, while David Ferrer was out with thigh injury. But Djokovic, Murray, and the other big boys were present.
 
Early upsets were few. The only outsider to break into the high-seeded eight was Grigor Dimitrov, 21, who knocked out Tipsarevic. The young Bulgarian then lost to Nadal in the quarters, even while showing a strong all-around game and forcing Rafa to a close third set.
 
Nadal and Djokovic met on final-round Sunday, 21 April. Both men showed their abilities as fine servers, superior serve-returners, and superior court-movers. Thus most points became extended in duration and fury, where Novak's superb agility about the court obliged Rafa to play slightly the more aggressively. Neither Rafa's questionable knee nor Novak's recently sprained ankle intruded. Rain had delayed the start and now slowed the exchanges, probably hurting Rafa's tactics more than Novak's, but as the court dried and hardened in the second set, Rafa's shots kicked higher and aided his attacking. Still, Djokovic defeated Nadal, 62 76.
 
The Monte Carlo outcome exemplified our king-of-the-hill game in its purest form, where a new Il Primo is crowned in a final-round victory over the previous incumbent. Djokovic now became both our Il Primo and the official world #1.
 
Counting
 
Nadal immediately reappeared in Barcelona. Rafa triumphed there for the eighth time, overcoming a strong first-set performance by his final-round opponent, Almagro, 28 April. The cool and damp conditions probably helped Nicolas, diminishing the energy and bounce-height from Rafa's slightly heavier blows. But it was not enough, as Rafa scored his tenth win over Nicolas without loss.
 
A week later in Portugal, the heavier striker -- Swiss star Stan Wawrinka -- defeated Ferrer in the final match. Meanwhile at Munich Tommy Haas, surely the world's best player over age 35, extended his brilliant resurgence by defeating Kohlschreiber.
 
Just ahead were the Masters Series events at Madrid and Rome, which together were equal in ATP ranking points to Garros itself.
 
Madrid
 
The blue-clay surface manufactured last year for the Magic Box had proven too slippery, so the familiar red clay reappeared for Mutua Madrid Open 2013. Meanwhile, the city's elevation (2,000 feet) and low humidity made for relatively fast ball movement both before and after the bounce. The world's top eight stars were all present except for del Potro, still out with wrist trouble. The playing surface seemed slippery early in the week, but the players seemed to adjust to it without difficulty.
 
Novak Djokovic departed early -- beaten by Grigor Dimitrov, who continued the high level of play he showed at Monte Carlo. The rising Bulgarian's power in stroking and especially in serving, his court movement, and his avoidance of error all seemed at Novak's level throughout. Especially impressive was Grigor's composure in his closing run. Novak perhaps held back slightly toward the finish out of concern for his bad ankle, which had required re-taping at mid-match.
 
Federer lost his second match, beaten by the still-improving Japanese player Nishikori, and Andy Murray lost his third, to Tomas Berdych. But none of the three giant-killers --neither Dimitrov, Nishikori, nor Berdych -- would manage to reach the final round, Sunday, 12 May. It would be Stan Wawrinka who defeated Dimitrov, Tsonga, and Berdych, all in split-setters, the Swiss star serving and stroking powerfully, seemingly at his best. Late in the match against Berdych, Stan had seemed to weaken, probably from his heavy recent playing schedule. But it had been Tomas who faltered at the finish.
 
The two weeks of almost daily combat, however, left Stan worn and unready to withstand Rafa's heavier game on final-round Sunday. Nadal moved firmly ahead at the outset behind his blistering, never-better forehand and from then on seemed never in danger. Rafa's triumph in Madrid and Djokovic's early loss made Rafa once again our El Primo.
 
Rome
 
Andy Murray retired from his first match in Rome with back trouble, and Nadal had problems with Ernests Gulbis, whose enormous promise seemed now at hand. Applying his heavier ground game, and backed by excellent quickness to the ball and good variety, Ernests achieving many more outright winners than Rafa. But Rafa, returning serve from extremely deep, managed to hold off the whirlwind, coaxing enough errors from Ernests to prevail in three.
 
Members of the Second Four also had difficulties. Tsonga lost early to rising hard-hitter Jerzy Janowicz. David Ferrer played very well but once again lost to countryman Nadal. Meanwhile del Potro lost to rising stylist Benoit Paire. Tall at 6-5, Avignon-born Paire, 24, next defeated Spanish star Granollers one-sidedly. In thus reaching the semis, Paire showed excellent rallying ability along with skill in moving forward behind a rocketing forehand, delivered easily but with severe topspin. Against Roger Federer next, the French player held his own in long exchanges and also scored often with his punishing first serve. Paire led briefly in their first-set tiebreaker, but faded slightly from then on.
 
But the greater excitement came when tall Tomas Berdych, who had lost his last eleven starts against Djokovic, finally reversed that pattern. From the start Tomas showed the heavier serving and stroking. But Tomas gradually fell behind by a set and a service break on the scoreboard. With Djokovic serving for the match, there was little warning of the change in momentum that next came. Tomas's relentless, easy power deliveries began staying consistently inside the lines, indeed clipping them often. As the world #1 tried hard to regain his edge, above all it was the thunderous serving of Tomas that kept Djokovic from finding that magic. This time, there would be no faltering at the finish for Tomas. But the brilliance of Tomas that brought down Djokovic would be ineffective in the semi-final next against Nadal.
 
Thus it became another meeting of Federer and Nadal in an important tournament final. This one would become less than historic, however, as Rafa dominated utterly behind the force of his strokes, which denied Roger the initiative or quickly seized it for himself if Roger managed an occasional advantage. At score 61 30 with the outcome absolutely clear, Rafa coasted home thereafter.
 
Rafa now moved into fourth place in the official rankings, restoring the long-standing Big Four at the top. He remained #1 in the official year-to-date standings, and he extended his current reign as our El Primo.
 
THE INDICATORS
 
Offered next are three primary indicators, each a predictor of likely outcomes at Garros 2013. (In each indicator, the scores shown here are normalized such that the total of the top sixteen equals 100.) Note that Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro are not included among the candidates. Murray has withdrawn because of back injury and del Potro because of slow recovery from virus.
 
Basic Indicator
 
Here, we compile each player's results at the leading tournaments, starting in spring 2012. The tally differs in concept from the official ATP ranking scheme, as each predictor tournament is here weighted according to how well it has predicted outcomes at Garros in past years. In general, clay-court results are here weighted roughly half-again more than hard-court events of similar magnitude and recency.
 
1. Novak Djokovic, 23.6
2. Rafael Nadal, 20.7
3. Roger Federer, 13.5
4. David Ferrer, 10.0
 
Djokovic has done well on both clay and nonclay surfaces during the period of the calculation. On clay he finished second to Nadal at Rome and Garros 2012, and he won Monte Carlo 2013. He was even better on hard courts, finishing second at U.S. Open 2012 and winning the year-ender in London 2012 and Australian Open 2013.
 
Nadal's absence for much of 2012 hurt his score here, but his near-sweep on clay through Garros 2012 along with his fine clay results in 2013 to date, all helped by the favorable weighting here, place him only slightly behind Djokovic.
 
Roger Federer, third here, now age 31, won Wimbledon last year. That magnificent event is the poorest predictor of Garros among the Slams by our data, and is here weighted accordingly -- lower even than the clay non-slams Monte Carlo, Madrid, or Rome.
 
Current Clay Index, CCX
 
Our second indicator, Current Clay Index, or CCX, mirrors the clay-court countdown of 2013 to date, sketched earlier. Captured in the CCX calculation are all main-tour and higher Challenger tournaments in the period, plus the several Davis Cup meetings on clay. Values are moderately weighted for recency. Here are the current leaders in CCX:
 
1. Rafael Nadal, 42.0
2. Stan Wawrinka, 11.7
3. Novak Djokovic, 9.6
4. Tomas Berdych, 6.6
 
Nadal's current dominance on clay is clearly reflected here.
 
Quality-Win Quotient, QWQ
 
Our indicator QWQ represents each player's match-wins over top-quality opponents compared with his total of losses to all opponents. Play on all surfaces in 2013 is counted here without adjustment for recency. (Wins and losses against Murray are included.) This indicator has proven highly predictive in the past.
 
1. Rafael Nadal, 39.7
2. Novak Djokovic, 18.3
3. Tomas Berdych, 7.0
4. Roger Federer, 6.8
5. Stan Wawrinka, 6.3
 
Prior to Italian Open, Nadal and Djokovic were only slightly separated here. Djokovic showed the greater number of elite wins, Nadal the fewer total losses and the slightly better QWQ. But at Rome Nadal collected three elite wins, defeating Federer, Berdych, and Ferrer, without loss. Djokovic meanwhile added another loss. Thus Nadal's margin is now wide.
 
Wins over the established Big Four are given extra weight. Berdych leads in this distinction with three such victories, having defeated Djokovic in Rome and Murray and Federer earlier in the year.
 
Composite
 
Here, we average the scores in the above three indicators.
 
1. Rafael Nadal, 39.7
2. Novak Djokovic, 18.1
3. Tomas Berdych, 7.0
4. Roger Federer, 6.8
5. Stan Wawrinka, 6.3
6. David Ferrer, 5.5
 
Our composite points to Berdych as the outsider most likely to penetrate the long-standing Big Four, and Wawrinka as the next most likely.
 
A fourth indicator, past head-to-head results, will be consulted along with the first three in examining the draw and reaching our predictions, later below.
 
COUNTDOWN -- THE WOMEN
 
The richest clay events in the women's countdown were the "Premiums," beginning with Charleston in April, 470 ranking points to the winner. Serena Williams won that green-clay event, though she faced no other top-tenner during the tournament, Wozniacki having lost early. Serena's triumph confirmed her as our current La Prima of the sport. (She also remained holder of the official #1 ranking.)
 
Late April brought the red-clay indoor tournament in Stuttgart, also a 470-pointer. Maria Sharapova won the tournament after surviving three split-setters enroute to the final round. She was also tested in a ferocious final against Li Na, but Maria asserted her excellent agility and well-controlled power in answering Li's strong blows to the sides and corners. Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka were absent.
 
Madrid
 
It was the Premier Mandatory in Madrid, 1,000 ranking points to the winner. Seeded atop the draw was Serena Williams, the tournament's defending champion, followed by Sharapova.
 
One by one the other top players departed, in many cases to unseeded risers. Victoria Azarenka, champion at Australian Open 2013 but now returning from seven weeks of inactivity, lost in the second round to lefty Ekaterina Makarova, and Li Na, runner-up at Melbourne, lost even more quickly, to American Madison Keys, 18. Other young risers scoring upsets were Spanish qualifier Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, 21, who defeated former Garros champion Schiavone, and Laura Robson, 19, British winner over Agnieszka Radwanska.
 
Meanwhile Serena and Sharapova advanced as expected. Both won straight-setters in the semis, defeating Errani and Ivanovic, respectively. Their meeting on a bright Sunday, 12 May, followed a familiar script. Maria started poorly, unable to command with her serve and finding it hard to time Serena's hard strokes through the thin air. The second set went better for Maria, who captured an early service break, losing it, but then recovering to reach a break point for taking a 5-4 lead. But the opportunity vanished two ball strikes later, and Serena then closed out matters emphatically.
 
Rome
 
Meanwhile the Premier-Five began in Rome, 900 points to the winner, 11-19 May. Another final-round meeting of Serena and Sharapova seemed likely. But Maria withdrew late in the week with viral sickness. Azarenka then defeated Stosur closely and Errani convincingly, Vika playing better with each appearance. Meanwhile Serena moved through the upper half without difficulty, using her power and athletic mobility to dismantle semi-finalist Simona Halep, 21, the tournament's top overachiever. Simona had won through in the qualifiers and then scored four main-draw victories over better-known opponents.
 
The Sunday match-up produced many well-contested moments, as Azarenka was closer to Serena in power and movement than Serena's previous opponents had been. But although Vika was strong in all areas Serena was stronger in everything. The American's ability to extend points against Vika's thrusts, often answering with severe pace and angle, turned nearly all the games to Serena.
 
Her triumphs at Madrid and Rome confirmed Serena's current majesty as both the official world #1 player and our reigning La Prima.
 
THE INDICATORS
 
Our indicators make Serena the clear favorite to win at Garros, and they also show strongly that the Big Four atop the women's sport several months ago has now become a Big Three.
 
Basic Index
 
1. Maria Sharapova, 21.1
2. Serena Williams, 20.8
3. Victoria Azarenka, 12.6
4. Sara Errani, 7.6
 
The three leaders here were the winners of the three heaviest-weighted predictor events here. Azarenka won Australian Open 2013, the strongest predictor by our data, Serena won Italian Open 2013, and Sharapova won Garros 2012. Of the nineteen predictor events in the calculation, Serena won by far the greatest number. Sharapova nevertheless scores slightly ahead of Serena in Basic Indicator here, largely because (1) Serena missed Garros 2012, and (2) our scheme adjusts for the time interval between each predictor and its target by making an age adjustment favoring younger players, who, our data show, improve on average during these intervals.
 
Current Clay Index
 
Here are the top women scorers on clay courts for 2013 to date, ranked by CCX.
 
1. Serena Williams, 27.8
2. Maria Sharapova, 12.3
3. Sara Errani, 12.2
4. Carla Suarez Navarro, 9.8
 
Serena's superior achievements in clay season 2013 are echoed in her strong lead in this indicator. Her winning of both Madrid and Rome in successive weeks amid very different conditions is remarkable. So too is the strong record of Carla Suarez Navarro, 24, always a plucky competitor and now playing at her best-ever level.
 
QWQ
 
Serena is the clear leader in 2013 play against the other top players, measured here as QWQ.
 
1. Serena Williams, 38.0
2. Victoria Azarenka, 20.5
3. Maria Sharapova, 16.0
4. Li Na, 5.5
 
The separation here between the Big Three and all others is severe. Seldom has an outsider defeated a member of this high-elite threesome.
 
In matches among all ten players deemed elites for the calculation, Serena's W-L record is 8-1 (excludes one walkover win). Azarenka's is 6-3 (includes two walkover losses), and Sharapova's is 6-5.
 
Composite
 
Shown here is the average of the three indicators, above.
 
1. Serena Williams, 28.9
2. Maria Sharapova, 16.5
3. Victoria Azarenka, 11.5
4. Sara Errani, 6.6
 
The emergence of a clearly defined Big Three in women's tennis seems evident here.
 
THE MEN'S DRAW AND PREDICTIONS
 
Top Quarter
 
This is the quarter of the world #1, Novak Djokovic, the runner-up last year at Garros. His most dangerous likely opponent, Grigor Dimitrov, defeated Novak in Madrid this month. The two are drawn to meet in what should be the prime match-up of the first week. The evidence favors Djokovic, as Grigor's Madrid win is more than balanced by Novak's two previous head-to-head wins, by Novak's large edge in our indicators, and by Novak's renowned determination in extended contests on large stages.
 
Tommy Haas and Janko Tipsarevic are the main candidates to face Novak in the final match of this quarter. Tommy has a slight edge in our composite over higher-seeded Janko and has also won their last three head-to-head meetings. Tommy should then extend Djokovic in many points, games, and sets, Tommy having won their meeting this year in Miami. But the verdict of Novak's seven-year advantage in youth will prevail in four or five sets. Djokovic over Haas.
 
Second Quarter
 
The fortunes of the draw place Djokovic and Nadal in adjacent quarters, destined to meet in the tournament's semi-finals if both advance successfully.
 
There are many fine players with attractive games in this quarter, but all are distantly behind Rafa in our indicators and none have beaten Rafa in previous main-tour action. Stan Wawrinka, with the clear edge in our indicators, should win his third-rounder against Janowicz. Stan's fine clay-court play of late as well as our indicators then make Wawrinka the choice to defeat higher-ranked Gasquet next. But Rafa has beaten Wawrinka in all nine of their past meetings, including at Madrid 2013. Nadal over Wawrinka.
 
Third Quarter
 
There is no strong challenger to hard-serving and hard-stroking Tomas in the top half of this quarter except perhaps Nicolas Almagro, but Berdych has their won their last four meetings and has the career edge on clay.
 
His opponent from the other half of the quarter will probably be David Ferrer, who must overcome Milos Raonic. David has won all four of their past meetings and, at fifth place in our composite, strongly leads Raonic there as well.
 
Thus it should be Ferrer against Berdych for top place in this quarter. Berdych leads in our first three indicators owing to strong recent performance. David leads in the head-to-heads, all of which came prior to 2013. Tomas's superior power should help him establish dominance in the exchanges, and he is more than three years the younger. Berdych over Ferrer.
 
Bottom Quarter
 
Both Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga rank slightly lower in our composite than their seeding here would suggest. But there seems no other player in this quarter likely to derail the expected meeting of the two. (Roger defeated his likely fourth-round opponent, Gilles Simon, in Rome last week with loss of only three games. Tsonga lost to Marin Cilic in Miami this spring but comfortably leads Marin in each of the first three indicators.)
 
Federer defeated Tsonga closely in a five-setter at Australian Open this year. He has won nine of twelve head-to-heads, including their only past meeting on clay, at Rome 2011. Roger leads in the first three indicators, and he has the better ranking for 2013 to date. Federer over Tsonga.
 
Semis and Final
 
Federer vs. Berdych. Berdych leads Roger closely in each of the first three indicators. Roger leads in their career head-to-heads including on clay. But Tomas, who is the younger by four years, has won the last two meetings including a four-setter at U.S. Open last summer. Importantly, Berdych has become comfortable in applying his heavy game on clay. Though it is difficult to choose against the great champion, Tomas's time seems at hand. Berdych over Federer.
 
Djokovic vs. Nadal. Novak is probably the only player today with significant chance of defeating Nadal in best-of-five set competition on clay. Novak won their most-recent meeting, in two straight sets in the final at Monte Carlo 2013. But Rafa won their three preceding match-ups, all on clay, all in 2012. Novak's bad ankle perhaps accounts for his lesser results since that victory, including the loss to Dimitrov in Madrid and to Berdych in Madrid. But with the indicators in his favor including the head-to-head results, and with the memory strong of Rafa's superb play during the month of May, Rafael must be the choice here. It could depend on the temperature and moisture, as affected things at Monte Carlo. Nadal over Djokovic.
 
Nadal vs. Berdych. Nadal has won the last thirteen meetings of these two, typically in straight sets. He was the comfortable winner when they met at Italian Open 2013. He is well ahead of Berdych in the first three indicators. Tomas has many strengths, but if Rafa is healthy there is probably no way Tomas can harness them to win here.
 
Rafa's career record on clay is the greatest of all. The once wunderkind has played at Garros in eight years, and he has won the championship seven times. Nothing is certain in sports. But it is hard to see Rafa this year not winning his eighth Garros crown.
 
WOMEN'S DRAW AND PREDICTIONS
 
Top Quarter
 
Serena's eminence is assured over all others in this quarter.
 
Her highest-ranking possible opponent here is Angelique Kerber, who is distantly behind Serena in the indicators. Angelique will be greatly outclassed in power and therefore probably unable to take point dominance away from the American. Serena won their meeting in Istanbul 2012 in straight sets. Serena over Kerber.
 
There will be some interesting early matches involving three rising 19-year-olds -- Laura Robson against Wozniack, Jana Cepelova against McHale, Kiki Bertens against Cirstea.
 
Second Quarter
 
Agnieszka Radwanska, highest seeded in this quarter, was knocked out early in Madrid and Rome, while Sara Errani reached the final four in both events. Both should reach the final match in this quarter, though Agniezka must get by Ivanovic, who is ahead in one of the indicators, CCX, but lost to Agniezka twice in 2013 to date. Errani's path is strewn with strong and rising players, none of whom have yet developed the talent needed to beat Sara.
 
The showdown between Radwanska and Errani should go to Errani, who is behind Agniesza in QWQ but leads in Basic Indicator, CCX, and the composite. Agnieska closely won their last meeting, indoors at Istanbul in 2012. The choice is Errani, whose heavier and more aggressive style should turn matters her way. Errani over Radwanska.
 
Third Quarter
 
Recent weeks have not been kind to Li Na, who after reaching the final at Stuttgart, won only one match at Madrid and lost her first outing in Rome. Na's relentless hitting can break down most opponents. But her likely final opponent in this quarter, Azarenka, beat Na in the final to become champion at Australian Open 2013. After subsequent problems of injury and illness, Victoria returned last week to reach the final at Rome. Ahead of Li in all our indictors, likely to defuse Li's pressure with her own mobility and firepower, the choice is clear, Azarenka over Li.
 
Bottom Quarter
 
Maria Sharapova's match tactics invariably call for relentless and overwhelming power, serving and stroking. Her screamers, if staying inside the lines, can dominate any opponent. Often underestimated is her court mobility, which is important for her getting into early position for shot preparation. Maria captured Garros last year, defeating Errani in the final and Kvitova in the semis. This year she won Stuttgart on red clay, then reached the final in Madrid, then withdrew midway at Rome with virus illness. If she is at her best, Maria should win the quarter, probably against Kvitova, the likely survivor of a match-up with Stosur, in the final. Our indicators agree. Sharapova over Kvitova.
 
Semi-finals and final
 
Azarenka vs. Sharapova. Azarenka has won four of their last seven meetings, but the two played on clay were won by Sharapova. Both have been hampered by illness and injury this spring, but both performed well in recent outings. Sharapova is the higher in Basic Indicator and is greatly higher in CCX, Azarenka slightly higher in QWQ. Maria has shown her ability to outhammer Vika on clay. Sharapova over Azarenka.
 
Serena Wiliams vs. Errani. Errani's wonderful court movement, her spirited determination and willingness to take initiative, and her overall racket skills validate her presence in the Garros semis. But Serena's greatness in power striking and court mobility is of historic dimension. With Serena seemingly at the peak of her talents, Errani can only hope that acosss the net it is an off-form Serena. Serena over Errani.
 
Serena Williams vs. Sharapova. Serena has been the winner of the last twelve meetings between these two, often by one-sided scores. The reason is probably that Serena's athletic mobility and talent usually defuses Maria's big game, extending points so that Maria's chances become spoiled by too many high-risk tries, too many errors. Even when Maria plays her very best, Serena's serving and serve-returning are often key to Serena's getting and staying ahead.
 
Maria leads in our Basic Indicator, but otherwise the auspices favor Serena strongly. Serena will win Garros for the second time, eleven years after her first triumph there. It will be another significant addition to her career resume, to be pondered by writers evermore. Serena Wiliams over Sharapova.
 
Our current El Primo and La Prima will become champions of Garros 13.
 
--Ray Bowers, Arlington, Virginia
 
APPENDIX -- WATCH-LIST WATCHING
 
Our eighth and newest list of predicted risers will appear in July. Its members will be computer-selected based largely on performances in Second Trimester 2013 including Garros and Wimbledon. Here is a glance at the watch-list classes whose 12-month tenures are still in progress.
 
Men's class of July 2012. With less than two months of watch-list tenure remaining, the success or failure of this class has been largely established. Two stars have emerged -- Benoit Paire and Jerzy Janowicz. Both have regularly reached middle rounds of main-tour events, and both performed at yet higher level at Italian Open this month. Both seem assured of finishing well inside their predicted target rankings -- #39 for Paire, #46 for Janowicz. Likewise Roberto Bautista-Agut seems likely to finish inside his target #79. The careers of several other classmates, however, have slipped backward since their selections, though David Goffin, Ryan Harrison, and Guillermo Rufin could finish their tenures as risers if they perform well just ahead. Class member Brian Baker, however, has been sidelined for most of the period by yet another injury, his ranking hopes destroyed.
 
Men's class of December 2012. This class has been disappointing in the 1st half of its tenure. Jerzy Janowicz, was a repeat listee, now with a more difficult target (#18). Jerzy's power serving and stroking should help him score well in the coming hard-court season, so the new target should be achievable. Meanwhile all the others have risen somewhat in the rankings since their selection but not enough to promise attainment of their targets upon graduation. Grega Zemlja seems closest to doing so. Guido Pella had slipped backwards slightly but recovered this week at Dusseldorf, upsetting top-seeded Tipsarevic.
 
Men's class of April 2013. The class hero to date has been Grigor Dimitrov, conqueror of Djokovic in Madrid. In the short period since the selections, three other members have also improved their rankings (Delbonis, A. Gonzalez, and Rhyne Williams), while three have declined (Millman, Copil, and M. Barton).
 
Women's class of July 2012. The class star has been Sara Errani, who currently stands as world #5, well inside her target of #8. Sloane Stephens also seems likely to better her target, #27, and Kiki Bertens appears in easy reach of her target, #52. The other class members -- Camila Giorgi, Urszula Radwanska, Varvara Lepchenko, and Alison Van Uytvanck -- have all risen but not enough to threaten their targets at this late date.
 
Women's class of December 2012. Like the preceding class, all members have risen in the rankings since their selection, and three seem comfortably inside their targets -- Kristina Mladenovic at target #51. Madison Keys at target #69, and Mallory Burnette at target #116. Also climbing have been Laura Robson, Anika Beck, Eugenie Bouchard, and Donna Vekic.
 
Women's class of April 2013. Five of the seven class members have improved in rank in the short period since the selections, but none at the rate needed to reach their targets by graduation. The closest to doing so has been Karolina Pliskova.
 

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Between The Lines Archives:
1995 - May 1998 | August 1998 - 2003 | 2004 - 2014


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This column is copyrighted by Ray Bowers, all rights reserved.

Following interesting military and civilian careers, Ray became a regular competitor in the senior divisions, reaching official rank of #1 in the 75 singles in the Mid-Atlantic Section for 2002. He was boys' tennis coach for four years at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia, where the team three times reached the state Final Four. He was named Washington Post All-Metropolitan Coach of the Year in 2003. He is now researching a history of the early pro tennis wars, working mainly at U.S. Library of Congress. A tentative chapter, which appeared on Tennis Server, won a second-place award from U.S. Tennis Writers Association.

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