The 2011 US Open was nothing, if not inspiring. Young Americans like Irina Falconi (pictured) demanded the spotlight and brought hope for a new generation of tennis stars in the United States. Serena Williams' dominance this summer after a year-long absence made us all realize just how special she really is to the sport. And No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Rafael Nadal battled in a men's singles final that left us wanting more, more of that level of play and competition. With that, here are the Top 10 moments from the 2011 US Open: — Brian Webber
Rain drenches Open
Unfortunately, bad weather has become as much of a mainstay at the US Open as the planes flying over the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on their way to John F. Kennedy International Airport. Inclement weather forced the men's singles final to be pushed back to Monday for the fourth consecutive year. The revamped schedule also caused the women's semifinal between Angelique Kerber and Samantha Stosur to be played on the Grandstand court (instead of Arthur Ashe Stadium) because Louis Armstrong Stadium was unavailable due to water damage. The situation could have been even worse had Flushing Meadows been hit hard by Hurricane Irene to open the fortnight postponing the start of the tournament. The scheduling snafu has renewed the debate whether the USTA should add a retractable roof to Arthur Ashe, matching the capital improvements that have already been made at Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
American teens win mixed doubles
A pair of young Americans made a statement at America's Grand Slam tournament. Jack Sock and Melanie Oudin came up with an improbable victory over eighth-seeded Gisela Dulko and Eduardo Schwank of Argentina to capture the mixed doubles title. The tandem opened eyes in the Big Apple when they upset top-seeded Bob Bryan and Liezel Huber in the second round. For the 19-year-old Oudin, the doubles win stirred memories of her amazing run to the quarterfinals two years ago in the singles draw in NYC. While Sock is a year younger than Oudin, the Nebraska native demonstrated that he may be capable of having an even bigger long-term impact than her. Sock was impressive in defeat, falling to Andy Roddick in the second round of the men's draw this year.
Ouch! Open suffers record number of withdrawals
Rafael Nadal battling painful cramps in his post-match press conference produced one of the lasting images of the 2011 US Open. The Spaniard sliding out of his chair was a microcosm of the health concerns that a record number of players suffered during the final Grand Slam tournament of the year. In the first six days of competition, there were 18 retirements or walkovers, seven more than during the entire 2010 US Open. While there is no single explanation for this run of misfortune, conventional wisdom suggests that the length of the tennis season is a huge contributing factor. By the time they get to New York City in late August, even "healthy" players are dealing with eight months worth of aches and pains piled up over the grueling season.
Donald Young comes of age
Ever since he was discovered by John McEnroe as a youngster, Donald Young has battled the burden of high expectations. The former top-ranked junior player has struggled with his transition to the ATP World Tour. But the 22-year-old American may have silenced some of his critics with sizzling wins at the US Open. Young rallied to defeat 14th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka in a thrilling fifth-set tiebreaker in the second round that electrified the crowd on Court 17. He maintained that momentum defeating the Argentine veteran Juan Ignacio Chela in the third round. While he was unable to get past Andy Murray in the fourth round, fans of Young must be encouraged by what they saw at the US Open. It will be intriguing to see if his strong showing in New York can be a springboard to future success.
Andy Roddick's US Open experience was memorable, largely for reasons that had very little to do with his actual play on the court. Roddick celebrated his 29th birthday on the second day of the tournament, but didn't seem to be in a celebratory mood in one of his post-match interviews. The former world No. 1 ripped some of his critics in the broadcasting ranks proclaiming that being a tennis analyst is "the easiest job in the world." Tournament officials weren't spared the wrath of Roddick either. In his fourth-round match with David Ferrer, Roddick vented because he wasn't pleased that he had to contend with a persistent puddle at rain-soaked Louis Armstrong Stadium. The match was moved to the snug quarters of Court 13 where Roddick ultimately completed his upset win. The American did not have many reasons to smile in the following round — he was dismantled by Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the quarterfinals.
Sjogrens Syndrome slows Venus
After missing two months because of a viral infection, Venus Williams made her return to competitive tennis at the US Open. But that comeback lasted merely one match. After defeating Vesna Dolonts in the opening round, Williams pulled out of the US Open because of health concerns. The former world No. 1 disclosed that she had been diagnosed with Sjogrens Syndrome, an auto immune illness that causes fatigue and joint pain. There is currently no cure for the condition, yet it can be controlled and treated once a diagnosis is made. While it's unclear when she will be able to play tennis again, Williams recently tweeted that she is "looking forward to getting better and back on tour." As anyone who has ever watched Venus on the court can attest, the 31-year-old has one of the greatest competitive spirits in tennis history.
Stosur withstands test of time
Samantha Stosur maximized her playing time at the US Open with the latest reminder than sports without a clock, such as tennis, can create some uniquely dramatic action. The Aussie's quest for the singles title was nearly derailed in an epic third-round match with Nadia Petrova. Stosur needed three hours and 16 minutes to defeat the Russian. It was the longest US Open women's match since tiebreakers were added to the tournament in 1970. Stosur made more history the next time she took the court against Maria Kirilenko in the round of sixteen. Kirilenko won their second-set tiebreaker 17-15 in the longest tiebreak in a women's singles match in Grand Slam history. Kirilenko had to settle for that historical footnote as she lost the match. Stosur had a much bigger moment to savor later in the week defeating Serena Williams to win the first Grand Slam singles title of her career.
No Joke: Djokovic stuns Federer
Novak Djokovic produced some grand theater not too far from the bright lights of Broadway in New York City. For the second consecutive year, the world No. 1 rallied to defeat Roger Federer 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 in the semifinals of the US Open. Federer seemed poised to advance to his seventh final at Flushing Meadows, but was unable to convert a pair of match points. The Swiss star will finish the year without a Grand Slam championship, marking the first time since 2002 that he has not won a major tournament. Djokovic improved his sensational record to 63-2, but considered this win to be the most satisfying telling reporters this was "the greatest victory I've had in 2011."
Serena wilts in final
Serena Williams was a heavy favorite to win her fourth US Open singles title. While the American lost to Samantha Stosur in the championship match, Williams managed to capture the majority of headlines in defeat because of a bizarre outburst. In the first game of the second set, Williams was assessed a code violation by chair umpire Eva Asderaki for yelling "come on" before Stosur had a chance to return a shot. The point penalty gave the Aussie the game and prompted a diatribe from Williams during the changeover. A courtside microphone captured Williams telling Asderaki "you're a hater." Later Serena added: "If you ever see me walking down the hall, walk the other way." Williams was already on a two-year probation for her incident with a linesperson at the US Open two years ago. She was fined $2,000 for her latest brouhaha.
Djokovic's dominance continues
The third time was the charm for Novak Djokovic in New York. The Serbian made his third appearance in a US Open final count, defeating Rafael Nadal to win the American major tournament for the first time. His four set victory over the defending champion bolstered the argument that Djokovic is having the most dominant men's season of the Open Era. Djokovic has won three of the four Grand Slam tournaments this year. His only two losses have come against Roger Federer in the semifinals of Roland Garros and Andy Murray in the final in Cincinnati, when he had to retire because of a shoulder injury. The world No. 1 continued his dominance over Nadal posting his sixth consecutive win over the Spaniard. Djokovic isn't done: he hopes Serbia can continue defending its Davis Cup championship taking on Argentina in the semifinals.