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Drama reigned in the 2011 men's draw

This U.S. Open went down as one of the most memorable in history.

Apart from heart-stopping, record-setting matches, we had player power, a court cracking up, almost an unprecedented amount of rain, strange scheduling, hoards of walking wounded and Serena Williams confronting yet another official.

Is that enough?

There were thus an abundance of unforgettable men's moments to choose from, but here are five from the second week, when things really heated up.

1. The (parting) shot

Roger Federer is a wonderful ambassador for the sport. But like a few others, when he loses, raw emotions get the better of him. It's probably not a wise move, then, to hurry into news conferences, as is usually the case when the Swiss suffers a defeat.

Federer certainly didn't cover himself in glory after losing to eventual champ Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, dwelling on the Serb's sizzling, risky forehand return off a first serve that saved a first match point.

"I never played that way," Federer said. "I believe in hard work's gonna pay off kinda thing, because early on maybe I didn't always work at my hardest. So for me, this is very hard to understand how you can play a shot like that on match point."

So what was Djokovic meant to do? Ease the ball into midcourt and allow Federer to crush a forehand? It might have been lucky, but only a smattering of players could have pulled it off.

Last year at the Australian Open, Nikolay Davydenko saved a match point against Federer with a similarly stunning return, sending a crisp backhand down the line. Asked about it afterward, Federer didn't criticize the Russian or call it a fluke.

Oh, yes, Davydenko isn't in Djokovic's class, and Federer won that match.

But is the 30-year-old Federer finished? Of course not. Not at this stage. He was a point away from topping Djokovic, who's on course to arguably have the best men's season in history and came closer than ever to downing Nadal in a French Open final.

2. When tennis met boxing

Forget about being mere tennis players. Such was the ferocity of the men's final that you'd classify Djokovic and Rafael Nadal as pugilists. And it was the lighter man, Djokovic, who was doing most of the punishing in the gruelling, pulsating four-hour affair.

Nadal, considered immune to fatigue, admitted to being spent at the end of it, while Djokovic had issues with his rib and back, and dealt with cramps. He was exhausted, too.

Before their next head-to-head at a major, shall we bring Michael Buffer on court to do the introductions?
Let's get ready to rumble, indeed.

Despite a gallant effort from Nadal, the bottom line was that he lost to Djokovic in a sixth final in 2011. As Nadal lamented, his serve, which led the Spaniard to victory over Djokovic in the 2010 U.S. Open final, was off. His average first-serve speed in last year's final was 116 miles per hour; on Monday it was 107. The difference was similar on second serves. He was broken 11 times (compared to three in 2010).

Nadal's drive backhand didn't hurt Djokovic. Rather, it was the slice that appeared more effective, at least not allowing the latter to attack.

Following the loss to Djokovic, Federer said he'd be "extremely hungry" heading to Melbourne in January. Djokovic provided Nadal with ample motivation, too.

"Six straight losses, for sure that's painful," Nadal said. "But I'm going to work every day until that changes. So I have a goal, easy goal for me now."

3. Revolt

One of the most dramatic days of the Grand Slam year unfolded when a ball was barely struck.

Nadal, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray, among others, felt they were being treated like a piece of meat Wednesday, forced to play in conditions they thought weren't safe (filet mignon would be the meat, taking into consideration the tour's perks).

The generally mild-mannered, nonconfrontational Nadal marched into the referee's office and made his feelings known, supported by the two Andys.

"We don't feel protected," Nadal said. "Grand Slams, they [make] a lot of money, and they are just working for that, not us. They are calling us on court, and it's still raining."

Pretty soon the issue went from micro to macro, as revenue sharing at Slams and Super Saturday were added to form a spicy mix.

"Maybe it is a good catalyst to what's to come," Federer said. "We'll see what happens."

Sensibly, the men's final was shifted to Monday; the benefits of giving both finalists a day off before the finale were there for all to see.

4. Watergate

Just when it couldn't get any worse for U.S. Open officials, here came another roadblock: The heavy rain in the middle of last week was ultimately to blame for a small crack on Armstrong Stadium that held up play between Roddick and David Ferrer in the first set.

Roddick probably would have laughed if he wasn't involved.

He was both "baffled" and "pissed" when he and Ferrer, largely relegated to the role of spectator as the American did all the talking, returned to the court to see that the problem -- which caused a slippery patch -- hadn't been fixed. Uh oh.

Desperate to get the fourth-round match complete Thursday, it was off to Court 13.

Intimate as it is, Court 13 is no place for a former Grand Slam winner and current No. 5. Even tournament referee Brian Earley suggested that calibre of venue was "rotten." He'd like that one back.

In his postmatch news conference, Roddick, unsurprisingly, issued one of the quotes of the fortnight.

"I didn't think Court 13 was in my future, but I probably could have promised you if it ever came to that I was just going to call it quits," he said.

5. The DDs in a TB

On a blustery day in New York, the kind where caps, hats and stray utensils take flight in an instant, Djokovic took part in the men's tiebreak of the tournament. Djokovic had to not only overcome the conditions but a fourth-round opponent, Alexandr Dolgopolov Jr., who's about as conventional as a Bethanie Mattek-Sands outfit.

The slicing and dicing Dolgopolov kept Djokovic off balance, offering up junk, then, out of nowhere, letting loose with powerful forehands and backhands that belie his diminutive stature.

Djokovic appeared to be out of it at 0-4, only to claim the next five points. It was nip and tuck thereafter in 28 minutes of theatre on Armstrong, with Dolgopolov producing the shot of the tiebreak to save a set point at 7-8.

His angled, short backhand volley -- hit above his shoulders -- caught the line.

Djokovic saved four set points and finally converted on his sixth attempt to prevail 16-14. The fans stood, Dolgopolov sagged and Djokovic cruised in the next two sets to advance in three.

May next year's U.S. Open bring as much drama.


London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.