Picking the best tennis matches can be a very subjective endeavor. Some favor gut-wrenching, knock-down, drag-out battles. Five set marathons of ebb and flow. Matches marked by nerve-racking suspense where the outcome isn’t determined until the bitter end. Others prefer contests won by pure shot-making brilliance and execution. Battles won more by artistry than by guts and guile. My top three matches of 2011 had a little bit of both. Tops on the list was Novak Djokovic’s 6-7 (7), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 semifinal win over Roger Federer at the U.S. Open. Best match of the year as far as I’m concerned. Maybe one of the best all-time. Second was Djokovic’s 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 victory over Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon final. David Nalbandian’s 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (1), 9-7 first-round triumph over Lleyton Hewitt at the Australian Open merited an ever-so-close third place. Best matches don’t necessarily have to occur in Grand Slam events, but it seems in majors the stage and stakes often bring out the best performances. That was the case this year. Djokovic’s comeback against Federer was epic. Fighting a sore shoulder and victim of brilliant shot making by Federer, Nole rallied from a two-set deficit to force a fifth and deciding set. Federer broke to go up 5-3 and led 40-15 on serve in the next game. Match point. It was all over but the celebrating. Federer served. The ball bounced wide and Djokovic took one step to the right, pulled his racquet back ever-so-slightly and ripped a crosscourt forehand for the winner. It was a shot for the ages. Djokovic broke, held serve, broke again and served out the match. Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. The Serb’s win over Nadal at Wimbledon was not nearly as difficult. For the most part, Djokovic played impeccably. And he had to if he had any chance to wear down the relentless Spaniard. Long rallies, ridiculous angles and strong serving marked play throughout. Djokovic sagged a bit in the third set, but came back strong in the fourth. The win was pivotal for the Serb. It was Nole’s first against Nadal in a Grand Slam match and also his first grass-court title. Nalbandian and Hewitt’s scrap was more fitting of a semifinal or final than a first-round encounter. It was the kind of match Jimmy Connors must have loved. Mano a mano. Two prize fighters going at it. Back and forth, blood-and-guts, momentum shifts galore. When it was over, after four hours and 48 minutes of riveting play, both players were spent. They left nothing on the court. Certainly there were other superlative matches. But I’m stickin’ with these three.