The Top 10 Tennis Performances of 2010

JA AllenSenior Writer IDecember 20, 2010

The Top 10 Tennis Performances of 2010

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 12:  Ground crew workers try to dry the court during a rain delay on day fourteen of the 2010 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2010 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of Ne
    Michael Heiman/Getty Images

    2010 proved to be an exceptional year in tennis, as the No. 1 mantle changed owners in the men's and the women's game. 

    Roger Federer and Serena Williams who both entered 2010 ranked No. 1 dropped out of the top spot––Roger will end the year with the No. 2 ATP ranking while Serena will end her year as No. 4 in the WTA.

    But many significant performances––some for a match and some for a season––shaped a very controversial, entertaining year on the tennis courts of the world.

    The ranking of these respective performances is subject to interpretation. Perhaps even attempting to put them in any particular order is a waste of time.

    Regardless, all 10 are significant in assigning superlatives to the 2010 season.

Preamble: A Toast To the 2010 Tennis Match That Refused To Die

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 24:  Nicolas Mahut of France (R) after losing on the third day of his first round match against John Isner of USA on Day Four of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 24, 201
    Hamish Blair/Getty Images

    2010 Wimbledon: John Isner defeats Nicholas Mahut, first round

    Normally a first round match is nothing more than a formality for seeded players during a grand slam––but not always. 

    A case in point––American John Isner seeded No. 23 had little expectation concerning the full-scope of this match as he met his opponent Frenchman Nicholas Mahut on Court 18 to contest this opening round match.

    The match, however, extended over three days lasting 11 hours, five minutes, and ended at 70-68 in the fifth and final set.

    Wimbledon, you see, does not allow for a tiebreak to determine a winner if the match extends to five sets.

    After this epic, there was a concern expressed regarding this tradition because these two players suffered physically for a long while after the match concluded.

    The world became mesmerized by this drama unfolding daily on an obscure outside court at the All-England Club.

    In fact, the match drew vast numbers to watch––people who otherwise would not have spent a moment of their busy lives watching tennis. 

    Therefore, the networks, and in this case ESPN, loved it.

No. 10: Serena Williams Punctuates Slam No. 13

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    2010 Wimbledon Final: Serena Williams vs. Vera Zvonareva

    2010 was the season for Vera Zvonareva whose ankle injury and subsequent surgery in 2009 kept her down.

    But Wimbledon in 2010 became her stage and she quickly announced to all assembled a return to the form that secured her the No. 5 ranking in 2009. 

    Prior to this tournament, the Russian had never progressed past the fourth round.

    The prospect of facing World No. 1 Serena Williams in the final, however, had to accentuate the fragile nervous state of the often melt-down-queen, Zvonareva.

    Serena Williams had never faced the Russian on grass. But this day with the American serving well and pinpointing her ground strokes long and deep, Zvonareva never found her way into the match as Williams won 6-3, 6-2 in 67 minutes. 

    The American broke the Russian’s serve three times and never faced a break point on her own serve.

No. 10: Serena Williams Punctuates Slam No. 13 (2)

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 03:  Serena Williams of USA (R) shakes hands after winning her Ladies Singles Final Match against Vera Zvonareva of Russia on Day Twelve of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on J
    Pool/Getty Images

    2010 Wimbledon Final: Serena Williams v. Vera Zvonareva

    The match served as the culminating event demonstrating the total dominance of the World No. 1 who won Wimbledon without dropping a set.

    Williams set a record at Wimbledon for serving the most aces in a grand slam with 89 in 2010.

    It was the younger Williams sister’s fourth Wimbledon crown giving her back to back wins in 2009-2010.   

    Williams also won her 13th grand slam, sending her past Billie Jean King on the list of multiple winners. Serena Williams sits behind Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert both at 18, Helen Wills Moody at 19, Steffi Graf at 22 and finally Margaret Court at 24. 

    The nearest active players are sister Venus Williams and Justine Henin at seven.  

    Shortly after Wimbledon, however, Serena Williams stepped on broken glass, severely injuring her foot. After subsequent surgery, Williams missed the rest of the season, lost her No. 1 ranking and will, according to reports, miss the upcoming Australian Open.

No. 9: The Czech Berdych Serves Notice On the Top 2

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 04:  Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic serves during the Men's Singles Final match against Rafael Nadal of Spain on Day Thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 4, 201
    Pool/Getty Images

    2010 Wimbledon: Thomas Berdych v. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

    At the French Open, it was Robin Soderling who stepped forward to challenge the top two ranked players in their quest for another grand slam championship.

    At Wimbledon, it was Czech Tomas Berdych who did his best to derail the stranglehold of Federer and Nadal on grand slam championships. 

    Federer was hoping to win his seventh Wimbledon crown while Nadal aspired to his second Wimbledon championship.

    Berdych after winning his first two matches at the All England Club in straight sets barely survived Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan in five sets 6-7, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4. 

    The Czech’s fourth round victory over Daniel Brands of Germany 4-6, 7-6, 7-5, 6-3 set up a quarterfinal match-up with the No. 1 seed, Roger Federer, defending champion.

    Federer, whose level of play after the Australian Open took a swan dive, found himself across the net from the tournament’s soon-to-be hottest player.

    The two had met 10 times with Berdych winning twice––shocking Federer in the early rounds at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and then again as recently as the 2010 ATP Masters Tournament in Miami.

    Federer had defeated Berdych twice on grass prior to this quarterfinal match-up.

    On this day, there was no magical come back for the six-time champion as Berdych continued to power past the Swiss serving extremely well and hitting his ground strokes with power and depth.

No. 9: The Czech Berdych Serves Notice On the Top 2 (2)

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 04:  Rafael Nadal of Spain (L) holds the Championship trophy after winning the Men's Singles Final match against Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic (R) on Day Thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn
    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    2010 Wimbledon: Thomas Berdych v. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

    The unrelenting pressure applied by Berdych resulted in his best win to date over Federer on the lawns of Wimbledon––Federer’s favorite surface. 

    The match, which lasted about two and a half hours, ended when Berdych delivered another forehand winner to take the match  6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. 

    Even though there were some tense moments for Berdych in the closing moments of the fourth set, the Czech held his nerve and sent Federer home early, failing to reach the finals for the first time since 2002. 

    From 2003 through 2009 Federer had presented himself on Centre Court for every gentleman’s singles final.

    In 2010 it would be Tomas Berdych who would face the World No. 1 Rafael Nadal on Centre Court for the men's final.

    After Berdych dispatched his semifinal opponent Novak Djokovic 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 and Nadal turned away Andy Murray 6-4, 7-6, 6-4, the final was set.  Head to head before the final the advantage went to Nadal 7-3.

    The final was anticlimactic as many of them are when an underdog finally arrives on the largest stage of them all. 

    There was no fire nor assurance for Berdych on the day as Nadal quickly and methodically convinced the Czech to fold his tent and go home.

    Nadal did everything needed to win convincingly. 

    That had to be a relief for the Majorcan after his last final on Centre Court in 2008––the massive five-set marathon with Roger Federer that some hail as the greatest tennis match of all time.

    The Majorcan defeated Berdych 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in two hours and 13 minutes with no drama or furor. 

    For Berdych, it was the moment and more importantly, the competitor who gave the Czech no leverage to gain a foothold in the match. 

    Nadal swept up his eighth grand slam title and his second consecutive slam title of 2010, having recaptured the French in June. 

    All eyes now turned toward New York and Flushing Meadows and the U.S. Open where Nadal had never made the finals.  

No. 8: Changing of the Guard As an Aussie and an Italian Storm Roland Garros

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    PARIS - JUNE 02:  Samantha Stosur of Australia celebrates match point during the women's singles quarter final match between Serena Williams of the United States and Samantha Stosur of Australia on day eleven of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 2,
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    2010 French Open Quarterfinal: Samantha Stosur defeated Serena Williams

    Most favored Serena Williams to win the 2010 French Open, especially after Aussie Samantha Stosur dispatched Justine Henin in the fourth round.

    In fact some pondered the possibility of the youngest Williams sisters winning all four slams in the 2010 calendar year.

    Stosur, who was known more for her doubles career than her singles prowess, found herself across the net from the World No. 1, knowing she absolutely had a chance to win this match. 

    Clay, after all, was never one of Serena Williams’ favorite surfaces.  

    Stosur stormed out to an impressive lead, winning the first 17 points of the match. The Aussie broke the American’s serve twice and took the first set 6-2.

    Then, undeterred, Stosur took a 5-3 lead in the second set. Williams was set back on her heels trying to keep pace with power and depth of Stosur’s shots.

    The thought of winning, however, undid Stosur and she began to play tentatively––not to lose rather than going for her shots as she had to that point.

    The Aussie lost the second set as Williams broke back evening the score and sending the second set to a tiebreak.  Williams had found her footing and her serve once again.

    When Williams held a match point as she went up 30-40 on Stosur’s serve, everyone assumed that the tide had turned and the American would win the match.

    Everyone, that is, except Stosur. The Aussie fought back to 5-5 and the match progressed to 6-6.  But there was no tie-break in the third set at the French Open and two played on.

    Williams double-faulted her service game away giving the Aussie the lead and eventually the set and the match. 

    In the end Stosur did not fold under pressure and lived to play on in the final after defeating another former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic in the semifinals. 

    The win over Serena Williams ushered in a new era for Stosur who rose in ranking into the top eight in the WTA.

No. 8: Changing of the Guard As an Aussie and an Italian Storm Roland Garros (2)

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    PARIS - JUNE 05:  Francesca Schiavone of Italy celebrates with the trophy after winning the women's singles final match between Francesca Schiavone of Italy and Samantha Stosur of Australia on day fourteen of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 5, 20
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Part 2, 2010 French Open Final: Francesca Schiavone defeats Samantha Stosur

    This was supposed to be the tournament for the return to glory of Justine Henin. It had always been the Belgian’s best tournament, having won the title four times previously.

    This seemed especially likely after Henin’s success at the Australian Open earlier in 2010 by making the finals even if she lost in three sets to Serena Williams.

    But this was not the year for Henin. Nor was it the year for the Williams sisters. 

    Henin as well as Serena Williams lost to Samantha Stosur who seemed unbeatable with her amazing serve, powerful ground strokes and net play.

    Also playing unbelievable tennis was Italian veteran Francesca Schiavone who took out the No. 3 seed Caroline Wozniacki followed by the No. 5 seed Elena Dementieva in the semifinals.  

    Stosur, however, was playing so big that nobody gave Schiavone much of a chance.  After all, the Italian had never been beyond the quarterfinals of a major. In fact, Schiavone had won only one Tier 1 title in her entire career. Most considered her entrance into the final a fluke.

    But along way as she piled up wins match after match, Schiavone began to believe in herself. She knew she had a shot. Being the underdog, Schiavone also had nothing to lose.  So she went out and played smart tennis by standing inside the baseline to return, cutting off Stosur’s big, powerful kick serves.

    The little Italian attacked on each point, chasing down every ball.  Stosur seemed stunned by the occasion and by her opponent.  When Schiavone prevailed 6-4, 7-6, the exuberant Italian bent down and kissed the red clay.

    Schiavone’s victory over Stosur marked the first time an Italian woman won the French Open. It also made her win the most remarkable of the year, maybe one of the most improbable ever in the long and rich history of the French Open.

No. 7: The Swede Upsets the No. 1 Seed Again But Crashes Out in the Final

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    PARIS - JUNE 01:  Roger Federer of Switzerland shakes hands with Robin Soderling of Sweden after the men's singles quarter final match between Robin Soderling of Sweden and Roger Federer of Switzerland at the French Open on day ten of the French Open at R
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    2010 French Open Quarterfinals: Roger Federer v. Robin Soderling

    By defeating Federer in the French Open quarterfinals, Soderling ended the Swiss' streak of consecutive semifinal appearances in grand slams at 23, marking the end of an era in men’s tennis.

    The next closest man to that record was Ivan Lendl at 10. 

    The mighty Swiss, as well as his fans, knew there would never again be a chance to take that elusive No. 24.

    Soderling who solidified his reputation as the upset king, took out Federer on a rain-soaked Tuesday afternoon forever denying Federer when the Swede took matters into his own hands winning 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

    Soderling made his first seismic upset against world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the French Open in 2009, sending the Majorcan out earlier than most expected or dreamed. 

    Nadal winner of the previous four French championships had aimed to surpass Bjorn Borg by winning this fifth consecutive French crown in 2009.

    Prior to this match, Federer stood 12-0 against the Swede who always had a tough time winning sets, let alone matches against the Swiss Maestro.

    After losing the first set, the Swede had everything in hand as all the bounces went his way. Federer struggled to no avail with the conditions and the man across the net.

    The streak ending, although inevitable, was a bitter disappointment to Federer who hoped to meet Nadal in the final. That would now fall to Soderling.  

    After losing this match, moreover, Federer had to pray that Nadal did not win out because Federer needed one more week ranked No. 1 to equal Pete Sampras' record total of 286 weeks at No 1.

    Unfortunately for the Swiss, his weeks at No. 1 would remain at 285.  

No. 7: The Swede Upsets the No. 1 Seed Again But Crashes Out in the Final (2)

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    PARIS - JUNE 06:  Rafael Nadal of Spain and Robin Soderling of Sweden pose with their trophies after the men's singles final match between Rafael Nadal of Spain and Robin Soderling of Sweden on day fifteen of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 6, 20
    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    2010 French Open Final: Robin Soderling v. Rafael Nadal

    For the second year in a row, Robin Soderling found himself in the final of the French Open after knocking out the No. 1 seed.

    Last year the Swede faced Roger Federer and lost. 

    This year, the man standing across the net was the man Soderling upset in 2009, Rafael Nadal.

    Would the Swede finally capture the title he so intensely wanted?

    The match was touted to be highly competitive and both players began play at a very high level.

    Soderling was the first man to garner a break point which he failed to convert. It was Nadal who finally broke and held that advantage to win the first set 6-4.

    In the second set, Soderling was unable to find a chink in the Nadal armor and the pressure to perform at such a high level increased the Swede's errors. 

    Nadal broke the Soderling serve twice to take the second set 6-2.

    As disappointment swelled in the Soderling camp, the Majorcan secured a break in the Swede's first service game of the third set.

    Nadal held onto that advantage to win the third and final set, the match, and the French Open Championship, regaining his crown at Roland Garros.

    Nadal won his fifth French Open trophy becoming along with Bjorn Borg one of two men to win five or more French Open Championships. 

    By taking back the trophy at Roland Garros, Nadal also took back the No. 1 ranking from Roger Federer. 

No. 6: Caroline Wozniacki's Rise To Number 1

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    DOHA, QATAR - OCTOBER 29:  Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark poses for photographers after receiving a trophy for finishing the year first in the WTA rankings during day four of the WTA Championships at the Khalifa Tennis Complex on October 29, 2010 in Doha,
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    2010 Summer and Hard Courts: Caroline Wozniacki’s Rise to No. 1

    Nineteen-year-old Caroline Wozniacki started 2010 ranked in the top five and was seeded No. 4 at the Australian Open.  Losing to Li Na of China in the fourth round, Wozniacki still climbed to the No. 3 ranking at the conclusion of the Aussie Open. 

    She rose to the No. 2 ranking by making the finals at Indian Wells.  Wozniacki won her first WTA tournament of the year at Ponte Vedra Beach. Suffering an ankle injury during the Family Circle Cup, Wozniacki retired in her match with Vera Zvonareva.

    The injury slowed down the ambitious Dane during the clay court season. Still she was seeded third at the French where she advanced into the fourth round. Wozniacki lost to Schiavone, the eventual champion. It was the Dane’s best result at Roland Garros to date.

    At Wimbledon where Wozniacki was seeded No. 3, she advanced again to the fourth round. There she was trounced by Petra Kvitova 6-2, 6-0 in definitive fashion. The Dane had dreamed of Wimbledon quarterfinals but Kvitova slammed the door shut in 2010.

    She won her second tournament of the year as the No. 1 seed at the Danish Open.  

    Thus began the Dane’s campaign during the American hard court season to seize the No. 1 ranking.  Serena Williams had withdrawn from competition including the upcoming U.S. Open and Wozniacki fought hard to attain that No. 1 ranking by playing more tennis than anyone else on tour. 

    In Cincinnati Wozniacki fell to Marion Bartoli in the third round.  Seeded No. 2 in Montreal, the Dane won overcoming both Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva to take the trophy. She followed that by winning in New Haven, capturing her third consecutive title there and her fourth WTA title of the year. She also won the U.S. Open Series.

No. 6: Caroline Wozniaki's Rise To Number 1 (2)

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 10:  Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark serves against Vera Zvonareva of Russia during her women's semifinal match on day twelve of the 2010 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 10, 2010 in the Flushin
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2010 Summer and Hard Courts: Caroline Wozniacki’s Rise to No. 1

    Because Serena had withdrawn, Wozniacki was seeded No. 1 at the U.S. Open.

    The Dane appeared to be every bit the No. 1 player as she blasted through the first three rounds losing only three games. 

    In the fourth round she met and defeated Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-4. Standing next in line was unseeded Slovak Dominika Cibulkova. Wozniacki dispatched her in the quarterfinals 6-2, 7-5. 

    Finally the Dane was stopped in her tracks by Vera Zvonareva in the semifinals 6-4, 6-3.  She was hugely disappointed not to make the finals again, as she did in 2009. 

    Still Wozniacki reached the fourth round or better in each grand slam in 2010.  

    But she still was not ranked No. 1.  After winning in Tokyo for her fifth title of the year, Wozniacki moved on to the China open where she won again, taking her sixth title of the year and finally the No. 1 ranking. 

    She became the fifth woman to hold the No. 1 ranking without having won a grand slam and the first Danish woman ever to be ranked No. 1. 

    Ending the year ranked No. 1, Wozniacki’s first order of business will be to win a grand slam to silence those who feel no one who has not won a major should be ranked so highly. 

    Should be an interesting 2011.

No. 5: Serena Williams Fights Off the Henin Challenge

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    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 30:  Serena Williams of the United States of America addresses the crowd after winning her women's final match against Justine Henin of Belgium during day thirteen of the 2010 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 30,
    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    2010 Australian Open Final: Serena Williams defeats Justine Henin

    Was there ever a  more anticipated final in women’s tennis than this one?  Perhaps in the past when Chris Evert met Martina Navratilova or Steffi Graf met Monica Seles before the 1993 stabbing. 

    With the exception of the French Open, in recent tennis history Serena Williams loomed as a juggernaut with her stranglehold on slam trophies.

    But Justine Henin was a winner in her own right.

    Henin, when ranked No. 1 in women’s tennis, abruptly retired from the game just prior to the 2008 French Open. Now, the Belgian was back 19 months later, unseeded and unranked, to play the World No. 1 in the finals of the Australian Open. 

    The tennis world was abuzz at the Belgian’s rise from the ashes.   

    Henin, however, did not have enough weapons on the day––especially against the William’s serve to hold onto her advantage after the Belgian took the second set to even the match at one set apiece. 

    Henin earned break points against Serena in the third set, game two, but could only watch as Serena served rockets that skipped past her.  The Belgian’s spirit broken, Williams closed in out 6-2-3-6, 6-2.

    Serena Williams equalled the record of Billie Jean King by winning this match, drawing her ever closer to legendary status.

    Serena with 12 slam titles at this point was awarded her trophy by Margaret Court who leads all slam champions with 24 singles grand slam titles. 

No. 4: Federer Extends His Dominance Down Under

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    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 31:  Roger Federer of Switzerland holds aloft the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after his men's final match against Andy Murray of Great Britain during day fourteen of the 2010 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 31,
    Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

    2010 Australian Open Final: Roger Federer defeats Andy Murray

    The way Andy Murray stormed into the final, sweeping aside all opposition, pundits remained convinced that this would be the Scot’s finest hour and he would finally scoop up that elusive prize, a grand slam crown.

    The man who stood across the net was the man who always seemed to be blocking Murray’s way in grand slam contests, Roger Federer. 

    It was Federer who turned him away at the U.S. Open in 2008, overcoming the Scot in straight sets.  

    Roger Federer dismissed Murray again in straight sets, but the final set was a struggle going to a tie break with numerous opportunities for the Scot to gain the advantage as the point count climbed to 24. 

    In the end, Murray could not overcome the determination of Federer to score slam No. 16, giving the Swiss a little breathing space as he distanced himself from Pete Sampras holding steady at 14.

    It appeared to all the tennis world that this was going to be another Federer year because his play was so spectacular and deadly in Australia.

    Inexplicably, it did not turn out that way for Federer.

    Even so, this was a significant victory, setting another record as Federer won slam No. 16. 

    Will anyone else ever reach 16? Will Federer be able to add to this total? 

    These are questions awaiting as 2011 unfolds ahead.

No. 3: Nadal Conquers on the Fastest Cement

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 13:  (L-R) Runner up Novak Djokovic of Serbia congratulates Rafael Nadal of Spain after being defeated by him in their men's singles final on day fifteen of the 2010 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sep
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    2010 US Open: Rafael Nadal Wins his last Slam

    The U.S. Open stood as the only pinnacle left in the Nadal list of major conquests.  Not only had Nadal never won the U.S. Open, he had never made it as far as the finals.

    Even to consider that Nadal would be playing for this third consecutive slam trophy in 2010 seemed very unlikely if you looked back at the beginning of the year when Nadal wrenched his knee in a match with Murray during the Australian Open.  

    After spending the greater part of 2009 suffering from tendinitis, many had written off the Majorcan, convinced his knees would never hold up and allow him to regain the No. 1 ranking. 

    This was especially true after Federer dominated at the 2010 Australian Open.  

    After winning both the French Open and Wimbledon in 2010, Nadal moved on to the U.S. Open where the nay-sayers assembled once again sure that Nadal could never win on the fast hard courts at Flushing Meadows.

    Only the foolish discount the Majorcan once he has made up his mind to up his game in order to conquer a new surface.

    With Murray losing early opening up his side of the draw, Nadal’s semifinal opponent turned out to be the unpredictable Russian Mikhail Youzhny. But Nadal dismissed Youzhny 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. 

    The other semifinal, however, pitted Novak Djokovic against Roger Federer and that semifinal turned into a five-set thriller with the Serb finally coming out the winner 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5.

    Djokovic had not been in a major final since he won the Australian Open in 2008.  

    The weather, however, wreaked havoc with the finals, postponing the men’s final from Sunday to Monday.  This gave Djokovic another day of rest after his long and tense semifinal match with Federer.

No. 3: Nadal Conquers on the Fastest Cement (2)

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    2010 US Open: Rafael Nadal Wins his last Slam

    Djokovic was broken in the first game of the match after the opening point took 21 strokes.

    Not a very auspicious beginning for the Serb. But Djokovic broke right back to even the first set at 1-1. 

    The Serb sealed his first set defeat by losing the fifth game on his own serve. Nadal won the first set. 

    When the Majorcan wins the first set of a grand slam, Nadal almost never loses. He has won 107 of 108 matches when he wins the first set of a grand slam.  

    Djokovic came back strong in the second set, going out to a 4-1 lead. But Nadal did not give up and fought back.  Then the rains came delaying the match for almost two hours. 

    When the players came back, Djokovic found his timing and took the second set 7-5.  

    Nadal kept Djokovic under constant pressure as the Serb faced break point after break point––more than 20 in the match.

    To his credit Djokovic staved off most of them but not enough to save the match. Add to that Nadal’s improved serve and his ability to hold his own serve, and you understand why Nadal won 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.

    It marked full equality for Nadal.  He long ago gave up the mantle of clay-court specialist and became a man for all surfaces.

    By winning the U.S. Open, Nadal became the seventh man to win a career grand slam joining Don Budge, Fred Perry, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer.  He also won his ninth grand slam title, passing Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl. Ken Rosewall and Andre Agassi with eight. 

No. 2: Roger Federer Rises from the Ashes

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28:  Roger Federer of Switzerland (L) and Rafael Nadal of Spain (R) pose on court before their men's final during the ATP World Tour Finals at O2 Arena on November 28, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Imag
    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    2010 World Tour Finals: Roger Federer v. Rafael Nadal

    It adds to the 2010 symmetry, having Roger Federer begin and end the year with awesome displays of dominance. 

    The European indoor season gave the Swiss some impetus coming into the WTF in London as Federer won the Stockholm Open followed by the Swiss Indoors recapturing the title at his home town tournament.

    After starting the year by winning his 16th grand slam at the Australian Open, Federer failed to recapture either the French Open or Wimbledon crowns as the defending champion. 

    After failing to make the semifinals at Roland Garros, Federer lost his No. 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal who returned to form on the European clay.

    But now, he came into London with some confidence and a new coach, Paul Annacone who may have helped the Maestro regain his finesse and form exhibiting new-found confidence.

    The top eight players met in London in late November to play for the World Tour Finals Championship utilizing the traditional round-robin format established for this tournament back in the 1970s when it was first played.

    Federer’s group included Andy Murray, Robin Soderling and David Ferrer while Nadal’s group contained Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych and Andy Roddick.

    Both Nadal and Federer went undefeated in the round robin portion of their draw. In the semifinals, Federer faced Djokovic while Murray took on Nadal.  

    While Federer dismissed Djokovic 6-1, 6-4 on semifinal Saturday in 80 minutes, Nadal had to fight off a very determined Andy Murray in a classic match that lasted three hours, eleven minutes. 

    During that time, nothing came easily including dealing with the high tension throughout the match which ended in Nadal’s favor 7-6, 3-6, 7-6.

No. 2: Roger Federer Rises from the Ashes (2)

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    2010 World Tour Finals: Roger Federer v. Rafael Nadal

    The finals on Sunday pitted the two top-ranked players in the world, finally.  The world took notice, filling the stands and tuning in.

    Federer took the first set, breaking Nadal immediately when the Swiss gained a break chance with Nadal serving at 3-4.  Federer’s serve remain impeccable as he delivered three aces, giving up only three points on his serve in the opening set.

    Nadal, however, upped his game in the second set as Federer’s serve ceased hitting the marks. The Majorcan shot out to a 4-1 lead.

    Even though Federer picked up his pace after dropping service, the Swiss could not deliver a break back. Federer lost the second set.

    Appropriately, the match would be decided in a third and final set.

    Federer remained aggressive, taking the ball early, denying Nadal enough time to perfect his shots.

    It paid dividends in the third set as Federer took a 3-1 lead, breaking Nadal in the fourth game of the set.

    Then, despite a relentless charge from Nadal, Federer hung on to go up 4-1.

    The match ended as Nadal’s game folded under the constant pressure exerted by Federer 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, lasting an hour and 38 minutes.

    Federer won his fifth ATP year-end championship and his 66th ATP Title. 

    His previous titles came in 2003 when he defeated Andre Agassi. He defeated Lleyton Hewitt in 2004, James Blake in 2006, and David Ferrer in 2007. 

    Federer ties former World No. 1 Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl with five championships.  

    The win achieved many objectives for the World No. 2.  Federer reestablished a degree of belief in his game by his peers and his fans as well as the ever-negative sports pundits. The points brought him closer to Nadal and closer to perhaps recapturing that No. 1 ranking.

    It also demonstrated that the rivalry is still alive and that Federer is capable of changing his game and rising up to defeat Nadal. 

No. 1: Resurrection on the Red Dirt

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    2010 Nadal’s Clay Court Season

    While it seems inappropriate to lump together a season in tennis as one event, it is highly apropos when you analyze the most amazing clay season ever put together by one man, Majorcan Rafael Nadal.

    After fading badly in 2009 with many tennis prognosticators announcing Nadal was finished, the Majorcan came back during the clay season of 2010 stronger than ever.

    It began in Monte Carlo. He defeated countryman Fernando Verdasco in straight sets 6-0, 6-1 hardly breaking a sweat.  His victory gave Nadal six consecutive wins at the same tournament, a feat no one had yet accomplished in the Open Era.  

    Nadal reluctantly skipped Barcelona where he held five consecutive titles, opting to head straight to Rome where all roads lead, awaiting the next ATP 1000 tournament. There he blew away the opposition until the semis where Nadal faced Ernests Gulbis who had excused Roger Federer from the proceedings in the round of 32. Gulbis extended Nadal to 3 sets for the first time in the clay season but Nadal held on and won the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. 

    The Majorcan refused to lose. David Ferrer, Nadal’s compatriot, fought his way into the final as well.  But in the end, Nadal won 7-5, 6-2 defeating Ferrer and in the process winning his seventeenth Masters title, equalling the record held by Andre Agassi for so many years.  

    Nadal went on to Madrid where he was not the reigning champion. That honor belonged to Roger Federer.  It seemed only fitting that the two should meet again in the finals. This time, however, Nadal prevailed, winning 6-4, 7-6. 

    The win in Madrid was significant, astounding really even for the man who appears to be the greatest clay court player in the history of the game because in the process Nadal broke several records.

    He won his 18th Masters title, giving him the all-time record alone, one more than Agassi.

    Nadal became the first player ever to win all three Masters 1000 shields in a single season as well as winning three consecutive Masters titles. No one had ever accomplished that before.  The only man seemingly capable of repeating the feat is Nadal himself.

    This is the Number One performance in 2010.

    Nadal's resurrection on clay marked the beginning of one of the most remarkable seasons in the history of men's tennis. 


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