Clijsters has tall task in U.S. Open final
Venus Williams’ last great chance to win the U.S. Open died when Kim Clijsters lifted a sky high lob into the wind that crashed down on the American's hopes — and on the baseline — to give the Belgian a critical break to 5-4 in the third set of their semifinal Friday afternoon.
A handful of points later, Clijsters worked the 30-year-old's legs over, ripped a backhand down the line and came way with a dramatic 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory to reach her second straight final.
Once again, the devilish winds blowing off the Atlantic Ocean played hell with the players' levels, but Clijsters and Vera Zvonareva composed themselves the most, as the Russian schooled the still-too-immature top seed Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-3 in the earlier semifinal.
Clijsters had to fight off a seven-time Grand Slam champion who actually played quite well throughout the match. Serving huge, Venus took over the net early and hung around from the backcourt. But when the key moments came, Williams mentally faltered, while Clijsters kept churning.
“I was able to raise my level and that’s what I’m most pleased about,” Clijsters said. “I was able to raise my level and rise to the occasion when I had to.”
Clijsters came into the match having won their last four contests — including a tight three-setter at the 2009 U.S. Open — but couldn’t find enough accuracy off the ground early on. She began to yank Williams around the court in the second set and raced out to a 5-2 lead, but then committed four brutal unforced errors to be broken to 5-4 and then had to scratch her way into a tiebreaker.
Clijsters is better at turning points from defense to offense and is more powerful off the ground on the run, but ball-to-ball in a back-alley match without Grand Slam pressure, in 2010, Zvonareva is right there with her. And really — given that it has been Zvonareva who has had the better Grand Slam results this year — if you take away the Russian’s shaky performances at the majors before 2010, maybe Zvonareva should be favored.
But she won’t be, largely because Arthur Ashe Stadium has been Clijsters' house. She’s a two-time titlist here, and her game fits perfectly into the ultra quick and loud confines, windy or not. She’s the defending champion and determined mother who refuses to go away from this year without a Slam title.
It’s really Clijsters' final to win or lose, and she’ll push hard at Zvonareva, hoping to coax tears out of the woman who once earned the nickname, "The Crying Game.”
“She doesn’t give you much and always hangs in there," Clijsters said. “It’s not that she’s unpredictable, but what she does she does very well. It’s going to be a tough battle.”