NEW YORK, September 11 – Defending champion Kim Clijsters advanced to the US Open women's final by rallying to defeat US third seed Venus Williams 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 on Friday, running her US Open win streak to 20 matches.Clijsters will play in Saturday’s championship match against Russian seventh seed Vera Zvonareva, the Wimbledon runner-up seeking her first Grand Slam title who ousted Danish top seed Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-3 in the other semi-final.
The Belgian second seed has a 5-2 career record against Zvonareva, but has dropped both meetings to the Russian since returning from a break to have a family, falling in this year’s Wimbledon and Montreal quarter-finals.
Clijsters, who did not play on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts between her 2005 and 2009 title runs due to her hiatus, matched the second-longest women’s win streak. Only Chris Evert’s 31-match run is longer in the 33-year Open Era.
"This is what I was trying to achieve in coming back," Clijsters said. "It wasn’t always easy but I’m glad I stuck through it and could enjoy these moments."
Clijsters, who last year became the first mother since 1980 to win a Slam crown, is trying to become the first back-to-back US Open women’s champion since Venus Williams in 2001.
Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, was the first 30-year-old to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Mary Pierce at the 2005 US Open despite not playing between Wimbledon and the US Open due to a left knee injury.
Clijsters improved to 7-6 lifetime against Williams with her fifth victory in a row against the American, a run that included a fourth-round triumph at last year’s US Open.
"I just tried to make the points and when I felt I had an opportunity to step up and accelerate I tried to take advantage," Clijsters said.
After two double faults and four unforced errors in a tie-breaker led to Williams losing her first set of the tournament, she squandered a break point in the second game of the last set and surrendered a break in the third game.
Clijsters stumbled in the eighth game, a double fault and forehand drive blasted long handing Williams a break to equalize at 4-4.
But Williams double faulted to hand Clijsters a break point in the next game and the Belgian lobbed a winner over the last US singles hope for a 5-4 lead, then held serve to finish off the match after two hours and 23 minutes.
"I’m glad she had a couple of double faults in the tie-breaker," Clijsters said.
Williams swatted a forehand winner to seize the first break point of the match and took it for a 4-3 lead when Clijsters netted a drop shot. She held serve twice more to win the first set, dropping only five points on her serve.
Clijsters answered by breaking Williams for a 2-0 lead in the second set, prompting Williams to move closer to the baseline and become more aggressive in her first Slam semi-final since last year at Wimbledon.
The Belgian saved a break point in the fifth game with a backhand volley, but Williams forced another and hit a forehand smash to break back.
Williams saved two break points in the sixth game with overhead smashes but hit a forehand wide on the Belgian’s third chance, giving Clijsters a 4-2 edge. She held to 5-3 and served for the set but Williams broke back in five points and they battled into a tie-breaker.
But Williams collapsed under the pressure, double faulting twice and netting two forehands plus hitting an overhead smash beyond the baseline as Clijsters build a 6-1 lead and forced a third set with a backhand winner.