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Monday, September 13, 2010
Updated: September 15, 5:27 PM ET
Handing out our U.S. Open hardware

Mother Nature sure had her say at this year's U.S. Open. First it was the baking heat. Then came the biting winds. Ultimately, rain delayed the men's final for the third straight year.

Rafael Nadal wasn't too bothered. Nadal beat Novak Djokovic on Monday to complete his Grand Slam collection and become the first man in 41 years to claim three straight majors in a calendar year. Kim Clijsters defended her title in a weakened women's field.

Now we look back at the 2010 U.S. Open while hoping for better weather in 2011.

Most valuable men's player: Rafael Nadal

No one thought Nadal could get close to Roger Federer's 16 Grand Slam titles. Now it's worth contemplating. How can you ever bet against this guy?

The evolution of Nadal's game continues. In New York, he was a power baseliner, serving big, hugging the baseline and keeping points shorter. Before the final, he was broken only twice.

Most valuable women's player: Kim Clijsters

Until the end, Clijsters was far from dominant. She suffered major lapses against Greta Arn, Petra Kvitova and Samantha Stosur.

When it really mattered, the Belgian (and adopted American) lifted her game, performing better in the semis and crushing a hapless Vera Zvonareva in a 59-minute finale.

How Clijsters would love to play at Flushing Meadows every week. She has won 21 straight there.

Most disappointing player: Andy Murray.

This was the year Murray had to win a major. But the Scot's loss in the Australian Open final to Federer demoralized him.

At the Last Chance Saloon of the U.S. Open, his favorite tournament, Murray failed to reach the quarterfinals for the second consecutive season. He fell -- again -- to an opponent who played more aggressively.

Will it ever happen for him?

Breakthrough performer: Stanislas Wawrinka

Wawrinka has troubled all the top players in the past. The problem for him was not being able to win the big points (aka choking).

The Swiss No. 2 turned that around against Murray in the third round and followed it up with a gutsy five-set victory over Sam Querrey. Then, although taped up, he had almost enough to knock off Mikhail Youzhny in a maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Best shot: Roger Federer

Federer is making a habit of those between-the-legs shots. Djokovic was the victim in the 2009 U.S. Open semifinals, and Argentine Brian Dabul was the unlucky chap in the first round of this year's tourney. Dabul thought he won a point by offering up a solid lob. Federer chased it down and smacked an outright winner into the corner. The crowd lapped it up.

Francesca Schiavone went between the legs against Alona Bondarenko, eventually winning the point on a forehand pass.

Biggest tantrum: Andy Roddick

More foot-fault controversy.

Roddick was irked when he thought a lineswoman incorrectly told him which foot touched the baseline on a foot fault. (Note that the official got the call correct.) Roddick let the incident "marinate," he said, and lost to Janko Tipsarevic one set later in the second round.

Most nervy performer: Venus Williams

Here was a great chance for Williams to end a nine-year non-grass Grand Slam drought. Sister Serena was out of the picture.

Williams eased into the semis without dropping a set and took the opener against Clijsters. But in a second-set tiebreak, Williams double-faulted on the second and third points to hand Clijsters the initiative.

With the momentum on her side, Clijsters didn't falter.

Best match: Federer versus Djokovic

Djokovic showed real heart in the semifinals, something he had been missing at the three previous Grand Slams. At Wimbledon, he was overly passive in the semis.

Facing two match points in the fifth set, Djokovic saved both with bold forehands. One was a drive volley and the other a cross-court forehand that caught the line. His scrambling was supreme.