Here, in ascending order, are my top 10 U.S. Open happenings:
10. Many a thing you know you'd like to tell her: Many a thing she ought to understand. And I expect she does understand those things, but Maria Sharapova still has to figure out how to get back to her former status. She can choose to change her game, or she can continue to work on her wayward serve, and use it once again to control points. Caroline Wozniacki beat the error-prone Russian in straight sets in the round of 16.
9. Dazed and confused: It was a scary moment for everyone watching when Victoria Azarenka crumpled onto the court during her second round match. Azarenka sustained a mild concussion when she fell while running sprints before the match.
8. Someone has to win: The three-hour ordeal contested between Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and their opponents, Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova, must have been maddening for the Czech team, who failed to save five set points in the first set, and--at the very end--failed to save four match points. For spectators, it was both maddening and thrillng. Only one team can walk away with the win, but credit has to go to Benesova for some very fine serving and some very exciting shot-making.
7. Still crazy-making after all these years: While she was calling the match, Elise Bergen said of Patty Schnyder, "When Schnyder gets out on the court against a big hitter like Wickmayer, her goal is to drive her crazy." How true. And Schnyder almost had her way, though she ended the match with a most unfortunate double fault; Wickmayer earned a 7-6, 6-3, 7-6 victory. Still, it was great to see Schnyder hit all of her vintage looping shots--over and over--for more than two and a half hours. Despite seeing her lose (she's a big favorite of mine), I was thoroughly entertained by this under-the-radar thriller.
6. Iced Danish: After all the build-up, top seed Caroline Wozniacki fell in the semifinals to wind-controller (remember the 2009 Indian Wells championship?) Vera Zvonareva. Zvonareva was at her best, and it didn't hurt her any that Wozniacki was flat from the outset.
5. So near, and yet so far: Both Venus Williams and Vera Zvonareva must have felt the title within their grasps, but Kim Clijsters prevented one from winning her third U.S. Open title, and the other from winning her first major. Williams' serve became wobbly during her semifinal match against Clijsters, and just about everything became wobbly for Zvonareva during the final.
4. Break, blow, burn: The weather was a major player in this U.S. Open. During the first week, on-court temperatures blazed well over 100 degrees, and during the second week, winds gusted as high as thirty miles per hour. Both extremes--and especially the wind--made it quite difficult for the players to compete. To top it off, there was rain, too, which caused the doubles final to be completed a day late.
3. The late-late show: It isn't unusual for Elena Dementieva to play in a drama-filled three-set match. She used to almost always win these contests, but lately, she has struggled with some of them. She and Sam Stosur played until 1:30 in the morning, providing the crowd with one of the best matches played in the tournament. The momentum swung wildly, and Stosur came back from being down 0-3 and 3-5 in the third set. She saved four match points, and then advanced to the quarterfinals when Dementieva lost her focus during the tiebreak.
2. Queen of the hill, top of the heap: 2nd seed Kim Clijsters won her third U.S. Open title when she easily defeated Vera Zvonareva in the championship match. Clijsters was impressive throughout the tournament, taking out both Sam Stosur and Venus Williams before reaching the final. The Belgian won the tournament last year, shortly after she returned to the tour, and many tennis-watchers thought her momentum had slowed down too much for her to pull a repeat. But Clijsters knew how to win the big points, and she put on her impressive return-of-serve show throughout the U.S. Open.
1. That was fun--want to do it again?: For me, the "real" final was the one that was played in doubles. Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova, the joyful pair who got together shortly before Wimbledon and won the championship, did it again in Flushing Meadows, and under very difficult circumstances. Playing against world number 1 Liezel Huber and partner Nadia Petrova, they were three points from a loss when the match was postponed because of rain. They came back on Monday, saved a match point, and forced a tiebreak. And they continued to go for everything. If they lost, they were going to go out in a blaze. But they won--their second major in a row. Tested by a three-hour thriller in the third round, and by the number 1 seeds in the quarterfinals, King and Shvedova brought the right balance of steadiness and flash to a memorable championship.