There has been no doubt who the most fierce competitor in the women’s game has been. After all, Serena Williams has won 11 Grand Slam Singles titles. As television commentators have made clear throughout this event, one does not accomplish that by beating one’s self or playing beyond one’s self.
Serena Williams had not made more than $26 million on the tour by beating herself. Serena Williams did not win those 11 Grand Slam titles by playing beyond herself. On Saturday, she did both.
Veteran Kim Clijsters, thought retired just months ago, came all the way back Saturday evening. She did the unthinkable. She tamed Serena Williams. She made the game’s biggest star appear vulnerable. Kim Clijsters showed all the poise, power and grace that it takes to beat the youngest Williams sister. Kim allowed Serena no quarter in hard fought battle of two superstars.
In a convincing win, Clijsters had more game than Serena expected or likes. The defending U.S. Open champ could not bully or play her way past the Belgium star.
The match ended in remarkable fashion to the stunned disappointment of a less than full Flushing Meadows, Arthur Ashe Stadium. After losing the first set 4-6, Williams was serving at 5-6, 15-30 when the service line judge called a stunning foot fault on the second serve. It was the second foot fault of the match called against the American star, who broke her racquet after the first. The score would have been 15-40 but Williams persisted and appeared to threaten the line judge.
The diminutive line judge appealed to the chair umpire who summoned tournament officials. Clijsters was awarded the next point and the match was over.
When the officials made their decision, Williams dropped her racquet and walked to the victor for a final handshake before leaving the court. The confused crowd never really acknowledged Clijsters dominant performance.
And in this match, on this day, Kim Clijsters was the better player. Serena Williams knew it and did not like it. In fact, Kim put Serena in the uncomfortable position the defending champion has often put lesser players.
Clijsters is a former number one who is only in the event due to a wild card award. Kim won the 2005 U.S. Open for her only Grand Slam title. After having a child nine months ago, Clijsters has re-tuned her game and appears to be playing with newfound balance and focus.
Serena Williams was quoted by the Associated Press as saying to the line judge; “If I could, I would take this (expletive deleted) ball and stick it down your (expletive deleted) throat and kill you.”
In post match interviews, Williams acknowledge the inappropriateness of her conduct. The game has been good to Serena Williams. Her interview was poised and calm. She was complimentary of Clijsters’s play.
The defending champ is not used to players rising to the occasion in big moments and Clijsters was definitely in the moment. She played beautiful tennis, winning 70 points to 57 points for Williams. She seemed likely to win the match before the abrupt ending. Clijsters was winning the battle of the serves, landing 69% of her first serves compared to 55% of Serena’s.
Williams had an unusually high 31 unforced errors compared to 18 for the winner. Clijsters’ win marks the first time a wild card entry has reached the finals where she will play Danish star Caroline Woznicaki. Clijsters will be a heavy favorite to claim her second major title. The finals will take place on Sunday. Weather is expected to be good.