Zvonareva and Clijsters In, Wozniacki, Williams Out

US Open 2010
By Hiland Doolittle, September 11th, 2010
Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki after losing her match at US Open

On a windy and chilly day at Flushing Meadows, four of the game’s headliners went toe-to-toe. When said and done, the two most consistent players fought their way to berths in the finals at the 2010 U.S. Open. In the early semifinal match, Russia’s top player out-Wozniackied top seed Caroline Wozniacki by committing less errors and chasing down everything that landed in the court.

In the evening match, a battle of competitive wills kept the intense U.S. Open crowd on the edge of their seats until Belgium’s Kim Clijsters drove the last piercing down-the-line backhand home to claim the final opening.

Caroline Wozniacki, the top seed and finalist here last year, had won 19 of her 20 matches since Wimbledon. The Dane had claimed three titles along the way and had beaten the seventh seeded Vera Zvonareva three weeks ago. Like Zvonareva, neither player had lost a set in reaching the semis.

Wozniacki defeated former world number one and Russia’s second best player, Maria Sharapova, in the round of sixteen and had completely dominated Dominika Cibulkova in the quarters. Analysts cooed at her youthful exuberance, her conditioning and her heady play. It was decided that Dane Caroline was indeed qualified to be seeded first. Indeed, this was no paper tiger.

Vera Zvonareva

Vera Zvonareva

The pursuit of the crown had the feel of a title bout and the title itself was their for her taking. Then, along came Vera Zvonareva who sent the Dane packing with a straight set 6-4, 6-3 spanking that Caroline will long remember.

From the start, Vera attacked. She attacked Caroline’s serve, she attacked her forehand, pressured her backhand and had the audacity to launch convincing net charges that scored winners.

She also did what winners do in big matches; she thoroughly out-served the top seed, always applying pressure to Caroline and rarely feeling pressure on her own serve.

Statistically, Caroline landed a slightly higher percentage of first serves (68% to 65%) but she provided 10 break point opportunities while Vera permitted only three break chances of which Caroline converted just one. Of first serves landed, Vera won 70% as Caroline managed a meager 55%.

Zvonareva won 76 percent of her 17 net volleys and committed 25 unforced errors along with her 18 outright winners. Kim had a dismal 31 unforced errors and just 13 outright winners.

The conditions were certainly not ideal. As the match progressed, it was clear that on this day, Vera Zvonareva was the more experienced and better player.

Venus Wlliams

Venus Wlliams

While Vera has been steamrolling opponents in the top half of the draw, Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters had been doing the same to the bottom brackets.

Heading into Saturday’s finals, Clijsters and Zvonareva have met 7 times. Clijsters holds a 5-2 advantage but Vera has won their last matches.

Clijsters Outdistances Venus

The weather could have been better. The wind could have cooperated, the sun could have warmed the players and fans and while none of these comforts took place, the packed house at Arthur Ashe Stadium saw the best women’s match of the tournament in the nightcap.

When the dust settled, defending champion Kim Clijsters emerged victorious over third seeded American Venus Williams 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4. The 2 hour twenty-five minute match was influenced by the wind but the two determined competitors stayed focused on the task at hand showcasing tremendous shotmaking and pure athleticism to the enthusiastic crowd.

Williams capitalized on her height advantage and extraordinary length to assert herself right from the start. Her aggressive play kept the points short and the second seeded Belgian at bay.

Venus converted the only break point opportunity in the first set to take the early lead. Clijsters bounced right back racing to a 5-2 lead in the second set. Like Clijsters, there is no quit in Venus Williams and she captured a needed break in game nine to get the set back on serve.

Kim Clijsters

Kim Clijsters

In the pivotal tiebreaker, Clijsters roared out of the gate. Helped by two untimely double faults, Kim quickly built an insurmountable lead.

By the time the third set started the stadium was highly charged. The players seemed to feed off this energy and for forty-six minutes the pair played remarkable tennis. Williams handled her net volleys artistically and the Belgian continued to fire her unequalled groundstrokes down the lines and cross court to keep Venus guessing.

Clijsters managed successful first serves 68% of the time while Venus only landed 60% of her first serves. Both players had high unforced error tallies with Venus registering 50 while Clijsters had 43.

The tale of the tape reflected the closeness of the match. Both players had 6 break point chances and both players converted four. Clijsters final break came in the ninth game immediately following a Venus break that put the last set even at 4-4. Serving in the ninth game, Venus was clearly on the attack. Clijsters may have delivered the harshest blow with a spectacular lob that left Williams fumbling to make a play on a ball that landed three feet inside the baseline.

Clijsters grabbed the momentum and did not let go. She held serve easily and now holds a 7-6 match record with the elder Williams.

Clijsters has been the bookmaker favorite from the start of the Open. Vera Zvonareva is a seasoned, in-form player with two positive outcomes against Kim since she came out of retirement last year. These two competitors will most likely go right at each other. Their games have many similarities. Clijsters has a slight edge in temperament but Vera is no longer the emotional roller-coaster she was just a year ago. Her appearance in consecutive Grand Slam finals proves her winning attitude.

What a Saturday it will be at Flushing Meadows with Federer and Djokovic ready to battle in one semifinal and Nadal and Youzhny in the other semifinal and Clijsters and Zvonareva playing for all the marbles in the nightcap.


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