NEW YORK (AP) — Kim Clijsters‘ 2½-year-old daughter, Jada, spent Saturday evening in the stands at Arthur Ashe Stadium, munching on a thick slice of watermelon, then savoring some candy.
Sort of like “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” — except how many children get to watch Mom win a Grand Slam title?
Her game was good as can be on hard courts, Clijsters won a second consecutive U.S. Open championship and third overall by easily beating Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 6-1 in a final that lasted 59 minutes and lacked any drama — perfect for a tot’s short attention span.
“I’m glad to be standing here as the winner now. New York is an amazing place for me,” said the 27-year-old Clijsters, a Belgian whose husband is from New Jersey. “The U.S. Open brings nothing but happiness to my tennis life.”
She is the first woman since Venus Williams in 2000-01 to win the title in Flushing Meadows two years in a row. And Clijsters‘ U.S. Open winning streak is actually up to 21 matches because she also won the 2005 title. She missed the tournament in 2006 because of injuries, including wrist surgery, and skipped it the next two years while taking time off to get married and have a baby.
“It’s been an incredible year being back. This is the first time I’ve been able to defend my title here at the U.S. Open,” Clijsters said, reaching down to fix Jada’s hair, getting mussed in the breeze. “The conditions have been very hard the last two weeks with wind — I’ve always tried to keep her curls down. I’m always hoping.”
Last year in New York, when Jada pranced around the court during the postmatch ceremony, Clijsters became the first mother since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980 to take home a Grand Slam trophy.
On Saturday, in addition to another championship, Clijsters was awarded $2.2 million — the winner’s check of $1.7 million, plus another $500,000 for finishing second in the U.S. Open Series standings that take into account hard-court tuneup tournaments.
Sure does, nowadays.
After losing the first four Grand Slam finals of her career, Clijsters has won her last three. Perhaps that will give some hope to Russia’s Zvonareva, who is now 0-2 in major championship matches, after losing to Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final in July.
Not since 1995 has a U.S. Open women’s final lasted three sets, and this one wasn’t about to end that trend. Indeed, you have to go back to 1976 to find a women’s final in which the loser won only three games.
“She didn’t really give me chances to get into the match,” Zvonareva said. “But I also think that physically today she was just much better.”
Over and over, Clijsters would scramble to balls that seemed out of reach and get them back over the net, sometimes doing full splits right there along the baseline. She compiled a 17-6 edge in winners, and made nine fewer unforced errors than Zvonareva, 24-15.