Philadelphia, PA – Novak Djokovic escaped from New York with a second straight and third overall Grand Slam title in 2011, while Serena Williams, somehow, failed in her attempt to secure a fourth career U.S. Open championship.
The amazing Djokovic became only the sixth man to capture three major titles in one year in the Open Era (since 1968) by nailing down his first-ever U.S. Open title. On the women's side in Flushing, Serena had yet another on-court emotional meltdown on her way to a stunning defeat at the hands of Samantha Stosur in the women's finale at the National Tennis Center.
Djokovic headed to New York as the favorite, and why not, considering he was 57-2 for the year, including two-thirds of the year's Grand Slam titles already in his pocket.
The Serbian star titled in dramatic fashion this week...and I'm not even talking about the final.
Nole needed a magic act to outlast 16-time major champion Roger Federer in a classic semifinal bout on Saturday. The five-time U.S. Open champion Federer roared out to a two-sets-to-love lead, only to see the super Serb come charging back to level the match at two sets apiece.
The French Open runner-up Federer, however, was able to forge ahead again in the fifth set, where he was enjoying a 5-3 lead and serving for the match.
The iconic Swiss, however, would squander two match points, including an unbelievable forehand return winner by the Belgrade native Djokovic. The soaring Serb turned things around with that huge shot on his way to an improbable 7-5 win in the final stanza.
Djokovic had been a U.S. Open bridesmaid on two other occasions, including last year when he succumbed to Nadal, who, despite a brilliantly-hard-fought third set aside, wound up being no match for the younger Serb in Monday's finale in Flushing, as Djokovic dethroned the mighty Spaniard and improved to a staggering 64-2 this season, including a 40-1 mark on hardcourts.
The Serbian slugger is currently putting together one of the best, if not the best, seasons ever on the ATP World Tour. But that's another discussion.
Note: Because of weather-related issues, the men's final has now been played on Monday four years running at the Open, with the winners being Federer (2008), Juan Martin del Potro (2009), Nadal (2010) and Djokovic.
More Notes: The top-two men's seeds have now met 11 times in the U.S. Open final in the Open Era, and the No. 1 guy is now 5-6.
Perhaps even more staggering, the 24-year-old Djokovic is a perfect 6-0 versus the 25-year-old Nadal in finals this season, including a win at Wimbledon, where the Serb also titled for the first time in his career.
By running the table in New York, Djokovic joined an elite club with his third major in one year. The club now consists of Rod Laver (1969), Jimmy Connors (1974), Mats Wilander (1988), Federer (2004, 2006, 2007), Nadal, who just turned the trick last year, and Djokovic.
The French Open champion Nadal was trying to equal Laver and Bjorn Borg with an 11th major title. But he'll have to wait until next year.
Back over on the women's side, the 2011 U.S. Open was shaping up in Serena's favor...but no one told the 2010 French Open runner-up Stosur.
The women's draw was rife with upsets in the first week, and nearing the end of the second week, all fingers were pointing towards the former world No. 1 Serena, or perhaps even current No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, to rule.
Serena ripped the 2009 runner-up Wozniacki in the semifinals and appeared well on her way to Grand Slam title number 14.
The big-serving Aussie had been flying under the radar in Flushing, despite spanking second-seeded 2010 U.S. Open runner-up Vera Zvonareva in the quarters.
There were no so-called "experts" picking the ninth-seeded Stosur to win this title before or, at anytime, during the fortnight. But the door certainly opened up for the Sam Stosurs of the world in the bottom half of the ladies' draw, where third-seeded Wimbledon runner-up and former U.S. Open champ Maria Sharapova, fifth-seeded Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and eighth-seeded former Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli were all dismissed way too early.
And Stosur's seemingly-unqualified semifinal opponent last week was unheralded German left-hander Angelique Kerber, who was ranked somewhere in the 90s coming in.
When the final finally rolled around, Serena was the heavy, heavy favorite, considering she was steamrolling the competition and riding an 18-match overall winning streak, all on hardcourts, and just seemed determined to capture her first major title since Wimbledon of last year. Of course Serena was sidelined for 11 months, until June this of this year, while battling a series of well-publicized health problems.
But on Sunday, Stosur simply played the best match of her career, while Serena was not even close to her best on the world stage.
And things got away from the American at the beginning of the second set.
Already down a set and facing break point at the beginning of the stanza, Serena scalded a forehand that she celebrated with her customary yell of "Come on!" But she just so happened to yell before Stosur attempted a backhand return and the chair umpire promptly awarded the point to the Aussie, which set the American off on a tirade directed at the umpire, Eva Asderaki.
Serena, who wound up being fined a paltry $2,000 by the U.S. Open for her embarrassing behavior, would grab a brief lead in the second set, but Stosur would right the ship en route to a shocking 6-2, 6-3 triumph and a $1.8 million windfall.
Two years earlier, Serena unleashed a profanity-laced tirade towards a lines woman who called an untimely foot fault during a semifinal clash between the American and eventual 2009 champ Kim Clijsters. Serena, who wound up losing to Clijsters after a match-ending penalty point was awarded to the Belgian star, was fined a record $82,500 and placed on probation, which meant another "major offense" down the road would prevent her from playing at the next U.S. Open.
Her latest demonstration of verbal abuse, although not as bad as the one from two years ago, appeared to be a "major offense" to me...but I guess the Grand Slam committee decided otherwise.
Back over on the men's side, Andy Murray is still searching for that elusive first-ever major title. The sweet-swinging Brit headed to the Apple as one of the favorites, but, once again, he failed in his attempt to give Britain its first male Grand Slam champion since the, I believe, the days of King Arthur.
The 2011 Aussie Open runner-up (to Djokovic) Murray gave way to the '10 U.S. Open champion Nadal in four sets in the semis last week.
And the U.S. men will have to wait at least another year to have one of its own prevail in Flushing, after Andy Roddick (lost to Nadal) and John Isner (lost to Murray) fell in the quarters and Fish floundered in the fourth round against flashy Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
And what happened to the third-seeded "Shaza" in New York? There were many who thought Sharapova would return to the Grand Slam winner's circle for the first time since the 2008 Aussie Open. But the three-time major titlist, who won it all in New York back in 2006, and former world No. 1 petered out in only the third round at the hands of 26th-seeded Flavia Pennetta.
That was disappointing...for Maria, that is.
And will Wozniacki ever win a Grand Slam title? She's starting to shape up as the worst No. 1 in the history of women's tennis. No major weapons. No major titles. And only one Grand Slam final (which resulted in a loss two years ago).
In all fairness to Caroline, she doesn't control the rankings. And who else would you say is No. 1 right now anyway? She's it by default.
It looks like veteran Chinese sensation Li Na has hit some sort of (great) wall after becoming the first-ever Asian player to reach a Grand Slam final, back in January (Aussie Open), and the first-ever Asian player to capture a Grand Slam title, back in June (French Open).
Since achieving French Open glory a few months ago, Li has gone just 5-6, including a second-round loss at Wimbledon and a stunning opening-round defeat at the U.S. Open.
One of the biggest stories at the 2011 U.S. Open was when 31-year-old Venus Williams pulled out of her second-round match after revealing that she had been diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes fatigue and joint pain. She made the announcement just hours before she was scheduled to meet Wimbledon semifinalist Sabine Lisicki of Germany.
Venus will return, for sure, but perhaps she's won her last major.