Clijsters retains US Open title

Belgian defends her title against Russian Vera Zvonareva in fastest tennis final since timing records first kept.

Clijsters of Belgium, right, made just 15 unforced errors against Zvonareva of Russia, left, to win the final [AFP]

Belgium’s Kim Clijsters has won her second straight US Open women’s title after crushing seventh-seeded Russian Vera Zvonareva 6-2 6-1 in the most lopsided triumph in 34 years.

The second-seeded Clijsters hit 17 winners on Saturday while making just 15 unforced errors against a nervous Zvonareva to match the three games lost by American Chris Evert in her 6-3 6-0 demolition of Australian Evonne Goolagong in 1976.

Clijsters, 27, extended her Flushing Meadows match-winning streak to 21 in a row, having also won the title in 2005 before missing a year due to injury and two more to start a family.

“It’s been an incredible year, being back in the Open and for the first time I’m able to defend my title,” Clijsters said at the trophy ceremony.

Clijsters cruised through the first set in 27 minutes after twice breaking Zvonareva’s serve. The Russian, appearing in her first final at Flushing Meadows, gifted Clijsters a break in the sixth game with a double fault and three unforced errors.

Then Clijsters wrapped up the set with a service break when Zvonareva slapped a backhand into the net.

Another double fault by the Russian, who was also runner-up at Wimbledon this season, in the sixth game of the second set put Clijsters up by two breaks and she quickly ended the 59-minute match with a forehand winner in the next game.

It was the quickest women’s final since officials started keeping track of match times in 1980.

“Kim just played tremendously well today. She deserved to win,” said the Russian, who burst into tears at the end of the match, undone by the Belgian’s bullet groundstrokes and by her own 24 unforced errors.

Clijsters, the first woman to defend her title at Flushing Meadows since Venus Williams in 2001, tried to console Zvonareva after the match.

“A little bit of experience definitely helps. She has improved so much,” said Clijsters, who lost her first four slam finals before beginning her US open run of success.

Nadal victory

Earlier in the day, Rafael Nadal reached his first US Open final, earning the chance to achieve a grand slam of “Big Four” victories, by routing Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-2 6-3 6-4.

After blasting a service winner to end the match with a love game on Saturday, the 24-year-old Spaniard leapt up and punched the air.

“To me it’s a dream. I’m going to play for the first time in the final here in the biggest centre court in the world,” Nadal told the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd.

“I have tried my best for a lot of years. So now after a lot of work I am here and I’m happy for that.”

Nadal, armed with a stronger serve and more precise volleys, will try to add the US crown to his grand slam haul of five French Opens, two Wimbledons and an Australian Open title.

The world number one was not to be denied on a sunny day at the National Tennis Centre, dominating the 12th-seeded Youzhny in all facets by belting 23 winners and committing just 19
unforced errors.

Moment of concern

Nadal sailed through the first set facing just one break point and allowed only three points against serve in the second despite a moment of concern.

Nadal will try to add the US crown to his grand slam haul  [AFP]

During the changeover at 3-2 he had his left foot retaped and a bandage placed to ease discomfort from a blister. The left-hander showed no sign of ill effects and broke Youzhny in the eighth game before serving out the set.

The 28-year-old Russian brought the third set level on serve in the eighth game with an overhead smash that accounted for only the second service game lost by Nadal in the tournament.

Nadal, however, wasted no time regaining the advantage, seizing the opportunity after a bad backhand volley miss by Youzhny to blast an irretrievable forehand into the corner to go ahead 5-4.

The top seed next faces third-seeded Serb Novak Djokovic, who upset five-times champion Roger Federer in an epic semi-final at the US Open on Saturday.

Djokovic saved two match points in a nail-biting fifth set and completed a stunning victory to advance to his second final at Flushing Meadows after finishing runner-up to Federer in 2007.

Federer, bidding for his seventh straight appearance in the final at New York, went into the match as the favourite after getting to the last four without dropping a set but struggled with his serve and failed to convert his two late opportunities to clinch the victory.

Source: Reuters

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