Monday December 26th, 2011

We continue recapping the most memorable moments, good and bad, from each month in 2011. January and February were still about figuring out what the year was going to bring. March saw a rattled Andy Murray, April produced Fed Cup drama and in May, Novak Djokovic thumped Rafael Nadal on clay … twice.  Nadal finally restored order on the red clay of Roland Garros in June, while July produced two first-time Wimbledon winners and the triumphant return of Serena Williams. The U.S. Open Series wrapped in August before an eventful U.S. Open in September, and Petra Kvitova capped her year in style in October. As the year dwindled down, November was all about a forgotten guy named Roger Federer.

BTB's 10 Memorable Moments From November

10. Novak goes Hollywood: As the year wound down, it was time for Novak Djokovic to enjoy some of the benefits of putting together a superhuman year. He announced a cameo appearance in The Expendables 2, hit the Cannes film festival in France and then stepped out with his girlfriend to attend the Twilight: Breaking Dawn premiere in London. All in a month's work for the ATP's No. 1 entertainer.

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9. Serena panics: This was an unusual news story to wake up to. When some doping officials showed up to her house unannounced for routine drug testing, Serena Williams reportedly freaked out and locked herself in a panic room in her house. It was all sorted out in the end, but yeah, odd to say the least.

8. Stockholm ad goes viral: Leave it to the home of the Swedish Chef to bring us something so adorable. While this commercial for the Stockholm tournament depicting tennis greats as children was released months earlier, it didn't go viral until November. Needless to say, I spent a good chunk of that month watching the video on a loop. It's just pitch perfect.

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7. Federer unimpressed: Roger Federer never has a problem taking the wind out of Andy Murray's sails, whether on court or off. So leave it to him to take a swipe at the Scot's back-to-back-to-back title run in Asia (Bangkok, Tokyo, Shanghai).

"I'm not taking anything away from Asia, but was Asia the strongest this year?" he said. "I'm not sure. Novak wasn't there, I wasn't there -- I played in the [Shanghai] final last year -- and Rafa [Nadal] lost early, but it was a good effort by him."

The fact that Federer had just come off back-to-back wins in Basel and Paris without having to play Djokovic, Nadal or Murray made the comment even more ironic. But, as has been the case so many times throughout his career, Federer got the last laugh.

6. Bob lobbing: Say that five times fast. Bob Bryan's lob-and-tumble is easily the best doubles shot of 2011.

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5. Project 45 complete: In a year that saw Li Na break through and almost single-handedly bust open the Asian market for tennis, it was nice to see Kei Nishikori hit another milestone for Asian players, this one on the men's side. After reaching the Shanghai semifinals, Nishikori became the highest-ranked Japanese player in ATP history (he's now 25th; former Tour pro Shuzo Matsuoka had the previous high of No. 46). Then in November, the 21-year-old handed Djokovic his first loss in a completed match outside of a Slam, beating him in Basel 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-0 to make the final.

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4. Czech it off: As if Petra Kvitova's season needed to end on an even higher note than her win at the WTA Championships in Istanbul, a week later she led the Czech Republic to its first Fed Cup title as an independent nation, defeating the formidable Russians in Moscow.

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3. Doping Dope: Tennis players will often say that they play best when they check their brain at the door and operate almost purely on instinct. That may work on the court, but it doesn't always play out the same off it. Yannick Noah, a player who made a career by playing on instinct, made public comments attributing Spain's recent success as a sporting powerhouse to widespread doping.

Citing no concrete evidence or anecdotes, Noah continued his tenuous grasp on the rules of logic by saying that doping regulations should actually be relaxed so that everyone could dope and thus the playing field would be level. That's just embarrassing all around, not just for Noah but for French sport in general, and the French players competing at the time in London in the ATP World Tour Finals felt compelled to apologize to their Spanish colleagues for Noah's irresponsible comments.

2. London pulls up lame: On paper, the World Tour Finals was a mouth-watering way to end the season, with Federer and Murray streaking, Djokovic and Nadal relatively rested and a supporting cast of characters who were all more than capable of playing spoiler. As it turned out, the tournament ended up being a bust from a competition level.

Murray withdrew early with a leg injury, Djokovic and Nadal were clearly out of sorts mentally and Mardy Fish was never able to play to his potential due to injury. Sure, we got another installment of the Federer-Nadal rivalry (blink and you missed it), and the undercards proved more than worthy of the stage (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga-Nadal and Tomas Berdych-Janko Tipsarevic were highlights), but heavyweight bouts never materialized. Long, grinding tennis season, 1, tennis fans, 0.

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1. Federer's finish: While the players constantly were introduced onto the court to London Calling at the World Tour Finals, the tournament DJ should have audibled to Don't You Forget About Me for Federer. After that soul-crushing loss to Djokovic at the U.S. Open (and a Davis Cup appearance in Australia), Federer didn't return to the Tour until November, at his hometown event in Basel, where, for the first time since 2003, he played a tournament ranked outside the top three. With the gauntlet thrown, Federer wouldn't lose a match for the rest of the year.

Federer dropped only one set in Basel to capture his first title in 10 months. He cruised through the field in Paris without dropping a set to win the Masters tournament for the first time. And the Swiss continued his outstanding form in London by dismantling Nadal in round-robin play. In the final, Federer fought off Tsonga to win his record sixth World Tour Finals and finish the season at No. 3, ahead of Murray again. Now would be a good a time as any for that finger wag, Roger.

***** Got something we missed from November? Sound off in the comments and we'll compile a readers' edition at the end of the month.

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