After a five-month layoff to recover from a hip injury, five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams returned to the All-England Club in June but lost in the fourth round to No. 32 seed Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2, 6-3. Leading up to the US Open, Venus withdrew from Toronto and Cincinnati because of a viral illness. She then won her opener at Flushing Meadows before withdrawing from the tournament after she was diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease. Venus has dropped to No. 105 in the rankings, signaling an end of an era in women's tennis. Though Venus is 31, she has not officially retired because she wants to qualify for the London Olympics. But her days of dominance are far behind her.
Getty ImagesChris Trotman
By September, players across the board felt the demands of the greuling year-long tennis season. At the US Open, 15 matches ended when a player retired because of injury or fatigue, with two matches decided via walkovers. While Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic (pictured) found a way to rise to No. 9 in the world, he also was forced to retire from four matches this year, including matches at Wimbledon and the US Open.
Getty ImagesNick Laham
World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki is the current pinup girl for what's wrong with women's tennis. The Dane has held the top spot on the women's tour for more than a year, despite having yet to win a Slam. Sure, she won six titles in 2011, but Wozniacki couldn't get past the semis at the Australian Open or US Open and bowed out in the third round at Roland Garros and the fourth round at Wimbledon. But she's only 21, just hired a new coach and can hopefully take some cues from her golfer boyfriend, Rory McIlroy, on how to win a major. He won golf's US Open, after all.
After a year without a match, Serena Williams reminded us what we missed — and didn't miss — about the former world No. 1. Upon returning to the tour this summer, Serena quickly became a favorite to win the US Open. But during the women's final against Sam Stosur, Serena unraveled a bit and spouted off at the chair umpire in a scene reminiscent of her infamous 2009 US Open 'foot fault' match against Kim Clijsters. Stosur went on to win the US Open title 6–2, 6–3, but Serena's rise throughout the tournament and subsequent meltdown during the final was a bigger talking point.
Wet and wild
Rain caused a scheduling headache for US Open officials, who tried to get as many matches played as possible on fewer courts after Louis Armstrong Stadium was deemed unplayable in the late stages of the tournament. Andy Roddick (pictured), Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray voiced their opposition to tournament referee Brian Earley (right) about playing in less-than-desirable conditions and created a buzz that players might strike. After the US Open, the strike chatter died down, but the bigger issue of players having a voice in scheduling and playing conditions remained.