By Dana Czapnik, USTA.com
There is nothing like the celebrations of first-time champions, and this year US Open fans were treated to two. Novak Djokovic completed his incredible year with his first ever US Open Championship win. And Samantha Stosur of Australia notched her first US Open and Grand Slam championship in dominating fashion over 13-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, who was battling back from an injury and illness plagued year.
Djokovic entered this year’s US Open on fire, going 64-2 on the season and winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon earlier in the year. His only Grand Slam loss was at Roland Garros, where he lost to Roger Federer in the French Open semifinals. In order to hoist the Champions Cup in New York, he would have to replicate his come from behind victory against Federer in the Semis in 2010. Somehow, despite falling into a two-set hole, Djokovic did exactly that and once again, he played defending champ Rafael Nadal in the Finals on a Monday. But unlike 2010, it was Nole who won the day and took the US Open title from the Spaniard with a hard-earned 6-2, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1 win. Some have called the 2011 US Open Men's Final match between Nole and Rafa one of the best tennis matches ever played.
Though Samantha Stosur entered the US Open with a little less fanfare and not quite as impressive a year as Djokovic, her stunning upset of fan favorite Serena Williams left a big impression on tennis fans around the world. The 27-year-old Stosur ripped powerful forehands and confounded Serena with her serve. Unlike most opponents, when faced with the tough and emotional Williams on the opposite side of the court, Stosur held strong and kept her poise to win the match 6-2, 6-3.
In other memorable moments from around the grounds of the 2011 US Open…
The young American duo of 18-year-old Jack Sock and 20-year-old Melanie Oudin improbably won the mixed doubles title on Arthur Ashe to the local fans’ delight, defeating the 8th ranked team in the world of Gisela Dulko and Eduardo Schwank of Argentina 7-6(4) 4-6 1-0(8). Sock and Oudin were playing the mixed doubles tournament after earning a wild card from the USTA.
The Bryan brothers - perennial men’s doubles champs – shockingly bowed out in the first round, blowing the field wide open for the veteran team of Jurgen Melzer of Austria and Philipp Petzschner of Germany to win the men’s doubles title over Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski of Poland, 6-2, 6-2.
On the women’s side, the American veteran team of Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond were eventually crowned champions after playing a barnburner of a match against fellow American Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kahzhikstan, winning 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(3). Both Huber and Raymond were repeat US Open doubles champs, but it was the first time they had won the US Open as teammates.
Outside the main draw, Mother Nature was one of the biggest players in this year’s US Open, first causing a commotion when, during the qualifying week, an earthquake originating in Virginia sent shockwaves up the Eastern Seaboard and shook the grounds at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, though only causing a minor distraction and no major disruption of play. Then, just before the gates were set to open for the main draw, Hurricane Irene hit New York City and all events scheduled for Saturday, August 27th were cancelled. Later in the tournament, Mother Nature appeared again, postponing two full days of play with rain and causing a kerfuffle among some players who complained that the courts were too slippery to play their matches.
But the effects of the rain weren’t all bad. Those lucky enough to have a ticket to the grounds for the day session on Day 11, got to see Andy Roddick and David Ferrer duke it out up close and personal on Court 13, followed by the quarterfinal win of women’s world number one Caroline Wozniacki over Andrea Petkovic of Germany, as the court on Louis Armstrong was considered unsuitable for play due to rain accumulation. On week two of the Open, Court 13 is usually reserved for big Juniors matches, not for four of the top players in the world.
Of course, rain or shine, nothing could deter the biggest tennis fans in the world from cheering on their favorite players. Despite the weather, the US Open still attracted more than 650,000 fans to the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The men’s final match between Djokovic and Nadal on Monday, September 12, set the all-time attendance record of 24,713 in Arthur Ashe Stadium and on the grounds of the National Tennis Center.
Watch highlights from some of the best matches from the 2011 US Open: