NEW YORK — It’s Kim Clijsters, again.
It’s Kim Clijsters, for the third time.
It’s Kim Clijsters, U.S. Open champion.
With a display of overwhelming championship tennis on Saturday night, Clijsters beat Vera Zvonareva, 6-2, 6-1, to again hoist the U.S. Open trophy. Clijsters has now won the last three Opens she’s played, 2005, 2009, 2010. She’s won 21 straight matches here, all of them on Arthur Ashe Stadium court.
“New York is an amazing place for me,” Clijsters told the crowd afterward. “It has brought me nothing but happiness to my tennis life.”
Zvonareva had beaten Clijsters in two previous matches this summer, including Wimbledon. “In a way I was excited to play her in the final here just to try and get that revenge,” Clijsters said. The one at Wimbledon was one of the most disappointing losses that I’ve dealt with so far in my career.”
There she was for the second straight year with her 2½ year old daughter Jada at the awards ceremony, such an endearing image from last year and an equally sentimental one this year.
Coming off difficult three-set wins over Samantha Stosur in the quarterfinals and Venus Williams in the semis, perhaps Clijsters might have lost a half step. Zvonareva hadn’t lost a set in the tournament and had upset No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the semis with ease.
Yet Clijsters didn’t lose that step, her marvelous athleticism carrying her to the ball with uncanny ease. Her sense of anticipation was such that she knew where Zvonareva was going with every shot.
The first set began as a battle of equals. There were some long rallies, superb groundstrokes and crisp serving. It looked like it would be a long and intriguing night. Then Clijsters worked Zvonareva to a break point and when Zvonareva hit a backhand long, Clijsters had a one-handed grip on the match. When Clijsters broke her again in the eighth game to take the first set, she had a two-handed grip. Clijsters had only conceded four points on her serve. She was impenetrable.
Clijsters never pulled back on the throttle, getting a break in the second game of the second set and holding for a 3-0 lead. She had won seven consecutive games to that point, bullying Zvonareva around as if this was schoolyard without a monitor.
When Zvonareva finally held serve in the fourth game, then got a breakpoint in the fifth game on Clijsters’ serve, well maybe . . .
Not. Clijsters served an ace for deuce, hit a fine overhead for an ad point and put away a sitter to hold serve and squeeze the life out of Zvonareva. Breaking Zvonareva’s service again and then holding her own for the match, Clijsters was the champion in majestic style. It took her 59 minutes to do so. It was the quickest women’s final match since they started timing them in 1980.
“Kim just played very good match,” Zvonareva said. “She didn’t really give me chances to get into the match. But I also think that physically today she was just much better player than me. Physically I was not capable of playing the same level as I was able to play even like (Friday) or in my previous matches.”
Zvonareva, known for her emotional outbursts — especially in a loss to Flavia Pennetta at the Open last year — busted a racket in anger the second set, trying to get herself motivated.
It didn’t help.
“When I cracked my racket, it was like, ‘Come on,'” Zvonareva said. “I was able to get this ball in previous matches, and right now I’m just like so slow, cannot move. I need to get some energy from something.”
The energy was all Clijsters’ and she can afford to pay some steep utility bills. She received a $1.7 million first prize plus a bonus of $500,000 for placing second in the U.S. Open series this summer.
The Associated Press