The Sony Ericsson Open marks the end of the annual spring hard-court season. It provides a sense of how 2011 is shaking out as the tours head off to the European clay circuit.
Here's a look at five things we took away from the 2011 Miami tournament:
The superman Serb: Is Novak Djokovic a mere mortal these days? To many, it seems he's more a superman. The Serb has been pure perfection in 2011, winning all 24 matches, which is stunning fans and stinging opponents. He's now won every tournament entered: the Australian Open, Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami. In all, if you go back to 2010 and include his two singles victories that led Serbia to its first Davis Cup title, Djokovic has been untouchable in his past 26 matches. The numbers now include back-to-back final beatings of world No. 1 Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells (4-6, 6-3, 6-2) and Miami (4-6, 6-3, 7-6 ). Tongues will start wagging whether the No. 2 Djokovic is poised to topple Nadal from the No. 1 throne. Don't be expecting the ranking swap anytime soon, though. Nadal still has a 16-9 edge over Djoker in career matches, and while the Serb is 9-5 on hard courts, Nadal is 11-0 on all other surfaces -- including 9-0 on clay. Djokovic will eventually have to come back down to Earth, and that's likely to happen on the dirt. Tennis commentator Mary Carillo suggested we could be in for a "trivalry" between Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer. Whether Federer is going to be able to hang is questionable, but tennis will be the winner -- even if it's just going to be a Nadal-Djokovic rivalry.
You don't always get what you want: Fans, over 14,000 strong, flocked to Key Biscayne in hopes of seeing another Nadal and Federer thriller. Even Federer predicted the 23rd installment of their rivalry would be "electric." The only problem was that Federer never turned on his tennis switch for their semifinal, playing as if the lights went out. Nadal leads their series 15-8, but the lopsided head-to-head doesn't reflect how many of their matches have been instant classics. The last time they played on American soil -- the 2005 Miami final -- was certainly a blockbuster, when Federer rebounded from two sets down to walk off a winner. This year's semifinal didn't live up to expectation: Rafa was flawless, while Federer foundered and appeared flustered. But that doesn't mean there isn't more vintage Nadal and Federer encounters in the future.
Don't close the book on Federer: OK, it's true that Federer didn't put up a Swiss masterful performance against Nadal in Miami. And yes, he's dropped down to the No. 3 ranking, which some wayward souls are making sound as if he's fallen to No. 300. The 16-time Grand Slam champ didn't offer any excuses, crediting Nadal with playing perfectly. We'll make an excuse, or three, for Federer: The court was played really slowly, which doesn't play to his strengths. His fourth-rounder against Olivier Rochus didn't start until nearly 1 a.m. local time. And his quarterfinal, which he led 3-0, only lasted seven minutes against Gilles Simon, who bolted with a crooked neck, leaving Federer underplayed. After the loss to Nadal, Federer insisted he still will make a statement in the game: "I don't feel like I'm 35 like you guys make me sound I am. I'm still only 29, and I have many more years left." Federer's not likely to take a page from Andre Agassi, who won five majors from age 29 to 32. But if things fall into place, he still can make some noise.
Dancing with the stars: The talented and amusing Andrea Petkovic performed her match victory "Petko Dance" for what she insists will be the last tournament at this Sony Ericsson Open. The dancing German was able to go through her jig for four matches before Sharapova kept her from two-stepping into the final. Petkovic, however, came up with two impressive wins before losing to Sharapova: She upset world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, and then in her last dance she beat No. 6 Jelena Jankovic 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. The good news is that Petkovic is creative and says she's going to come up with another celebratory routine. Petkovic didn't win, but she was definitely the highlight of the women's competition.
Shrieking is back: For a while, women's tennis was experiencing a dignified reprieve. But all good things come to an end, and the Sony Ericsson Open final between Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova delivered a loud and clear message -- literally. In case you're wondering, the shriek is an outgrowth of coaches telling young kids not to forget to exhale when striking the ball. Somehow, former superstars like Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf managed to escape trying to break the sound barrier with their exhales. Credit Monica Seles with making the high-pitched grunt an art form. During the Sharapova-Azarenka match, fans chuckled at the constant soprano squeaking. Azarenka, who will return to her previous career-high ranking of No. 6 in Monday's new rankings, tweeted to fans Friday that the final was bound to hit high decibel levels. She did not lie.