The circumstances were far from ideal. The rain hadn’t stopped all day throwing another curve into the schedule which forced both women’s semifinals to be played at the same time in Ashe and Louis Armstrong while both doubles matches were pushed back.
Perhaps that’s why Kim Clijsters is in her second straight U.S. Open final trying to become the first Mom to win a grand slam title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley back in 1980 (Wimbledon).
Oh. Did we also mention that when the Mom of 18-month old Jade plays ninth seeded Caroline Wozniacki for all the marbles later tonight in primetime at 9 PM on CBS, the unseeded Belgian was absent from the last three? Indeed, the 26 year-old former 2005 champ missed a chance to defend her crown due to injury and wasn’t even on the WTA Tour the past two years until 10 weeks ago. Since then, she’s gone 11-2 and will aim to become the first ever ladies wildcard to win a major.
“Maybe a little out of today’s match just because, you know, you want to finish that last point, kind of, especially when you hit like I was seeing the ball really well, I was hitting well, and I was really focused,” a pleased Clijsters said on whether her return has inspired people.
“It’s a little bit unfortunate that I didn’t have that, but it’s not going to take anything away from tomorrow’s match or how special that would be for me, and for both of us.”
Now, her incredible comeback continues by doing something few have. Not beating one Williams but both even if it was under bizarre circumstances with Serena Williams losing her cool late on a controversial call in a very tight second set.
Yes, the overwhelming favorite didn’t keep it together after a line judge nailed her for a foot fault handing Clijsters double match point. CBS replays were inconclusive with the call coming at a pivotal moment. As she was about to step up and serve, Williams made the costly mistake of walking over to have a few choice words for the poor judge. Unfortunately, the 27 year-old American let out several expletives which resulted in a very awkward and devastating conclusion to a quality match.
“I”m not going to sit here and make an excuse. If I foot fault, I did. It was what it was, and that’s basically all it was,” lamented Williams.
Following a meeting between the chair umpire and lines person, she reported what was said. With Serena anxiously waiting at the baseline and Clijsters wondering what was happening, eventually the 11-time slam winner was called up by the umpire forcing tournament referee Brian Earley to pay a visit along with tournament official Donna Kelso.
“She was called for a foot fault, and a point later, she said something to a line umpire, and it was reported to the chair, and that resulted in a point penalty,” a very subdued Earley explained. “And it just happened that point penalty was match point. It was a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct.”
Due to Williams breaking her racket following losing the first set which she received a warning for, the temper tantrum cost her any chance to repeat, resulting in a point penalty which meant the match. When Serena walked across the net to congratulate Clijsters, the stunned Belgian almost didn’t want to accept the 6-4, 7-5 semi victory which she quite deserved before a stunned, loyal half capacity crowd.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s unfortunate that a match that I was playing so well at to end that way,” a surprised Clijsters remarked after improving to 2-8 career versus Serena.
“You know, obviously, yeah, I still to this point I’m a little confused about what happened out there, and, um, just because I was so focused. You know, just trying to win that last point for me. So then things ended up ending a little bit different than I expected.”
“Well, I said something that I guess they gave me a point penalty. Unfortunately it was on match point,” was how Williams put it while adding:
No, I didn’t think I would get a point penalty. I didn’t think about it.”
Sometimes in sports, things happen. Chalk it up to emotions getting the better turning the champ into chump. Yes. The cooler player prevailed. With few giving her a chance after already sending Venus Williams home two rounds prior, Clijsters was superior.
Following a lengthy eight and a half hour delay, it was Kim who dealt with the elements better to pull off another upset knocking out the three-time Open winner.
It took a while for both players to get going due to a few sprinkles which fell and seemed to unnerve Serena more than Clijsters. The difference was that Clijsters hit the cleaner ball while an unsteady Williams misfired from the baseline. Able to deal with the pace, the speedy popular former champ was able to run down shots and come up with precision hitting creating nice angles.
They exchanged breaks in the sixth and seventh games but ultimately, Clijsters stayed strong holding for 5-4 to put pressure on Serena to stay in the set. A couple of points from squaring it, she fell apart dropping the next four to hand it over. After a Clijsters forehand winner made it 30-all, two Williams miscues including a netted backhand gave her gritty opponent a set lead to which she slammed her racket in disgust. Who knew that would play such a big role in a match of this magnitude?
When Williams seemed ready to make a run breaking Clijsters in the opening game of the second set highlighted by a couple of lethal return winners, she allowed Kim to stick around by dropping serve with a double fault.
All match, the WTA’s best server struggled mightily winning just 32 percent of second serves (10 of 31) due in large part to Clijsters’ aggressive play. That was the biggest difference making Williams’ serve attackable with Clijsters breaking her one more time than she’d been all tournament. Four when she had only allowed three entering last night.
Despite her serving issues, a sharper Williams pressed on earning a break in the fifth game when a nice dropshot setup a textbook crosscourt pass for 3-2. But yet again, a resilient Clijsters came right back. After Serena fought off three break points, she earned a fourth and converted thanks to a big forehand which drew an error to get back even.
Following Clijsters digging out of 15-30 to hold for 4-3, a big backhand gave her two more chances to break and serve for the match. However, as often happens with Williams, she toughened saving both winning a baseline exchange and a swinging volley winner. Still in trouble, she delivered an ace out wide to fight off a third. Entering the game, she had three aces but matched that total with clutch serving for four all.
Each then traded holds. A Clijsters ace out wide put her a game away from the final. Then came the embarrassing conclusion to a great set that had fans into it.
Already trailing in the critical game 15-30 due to a pair of errors, Williams faulted. Then came the foot fault from Hell.
“I used to have a real temper, and I’ve gotten a lot better,” an under control Williams said during a long postmatch press conference. “So I know you don’t believe me, but I used to be worse. Yes, yes, indeed.”
Not on this night.