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Clijsters’ comeback continues when Williams loses head

Posted by on Sep 12th, 2009 and filed under  Top Stories, Tennis. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


She didn’t want to win this way. And from the sound of the boos echoing throughout Arthur Ashe Stadium, tennis fans didn’t either.

But Kim Clijsters’ comeback story continued at the US Open Saturday in a manner rarely seen in Flushing since the days of John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase: via code violation.

The 26-year-old Belgian advanced to her third US Open final by defeating defending champion Serena Williams, 6-4, 7-5, after Williams was called for a point penalty on match point.

“It’s unfortunate that a match that I was playing so well had to end that way,” said Clijsters. “To this point I’m a little confused about what happened out there just because I was so focused trying to win that last point. Then things ended up ending a little bit different than I expected.”

Chair Umpire Louise Engzell delivered a code violation warning to Williams for racket abuse after the American smashed her Wilson frame in disgust when she lost the first set.

In the midst of a tense 56-minute second set, Williams was called for her second foot fault of the match on a second serve at 5-6, 15-30. As a result, Clijsters earned double-match point and Williams snapped, approaching the linesperson who made the call and shouting loudly at the woman.

When Williams was through yelling, Engzell called the linesperson to the chair. Following a brief chat, Engzell requested that tournament referee Brian Earley come onto the court.

Another discussion ensued, with Williams joining the mix. In the end, Williams was called for her second code violation of the match – this time for unsportsmanlike conduct. As tennis rules dictate, a player’s second code violation is a point penalty.

Since Williams’ point penalty came with the American serving at 15-40, the game was awarded to Clijsters. And since Clijsters led by a set and 6-5 at the time, the match was hers.

“I haven’t been called for a foot fault all year until I got to New York, so maybe when I come to this tournament I have to step two feet back,” said Williams, whose first foot fault was called by a different linesperson in the sixth game of the second set.

The semifinal started innocently enough. Clijsters and Williams walked onto the court 32 hours and 51 minutes after their semifinal was originally scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday. Though there were few fans present in the upper deck of Arthur Ashe Stadium, those who packed the lower tiers were rowdy and ready for tennis after two days of rain.

Five straight service holds gave little indication about where momentum lied between Clijsters and Williams. The Belgian broke the American in the sixth game when Williams missed back-to-back backhands, only to give the break back when Williams pummeled a down-the-line forehand winner.

The three-time US Open champion went through the motions early. After missing shots, she often whipped her racket against the air as if she were attempting to correct the error of her swings. Williams finished with 31 unforced errors and won just 32 percent of her second serve points.

She held for 4-4 with a backhand winner set up by a 119 mph first serve, but netted the same stroke to allow Clijsters to take a 5-4 lead.

Williams’ backhand let her down again in the following game. From 30-30, Serena missed two straight backhands into the net. With Clijsters having claimed the first set, Williams’ drew her first code violation by cracking her racket into the DecoTurf surface.

In the second set, Williams broke Clijsters in the first and fifth games. But the Belgian broke back in the second and sixth, overpowering Williams in a backhand-to-backhand exchange before pummeling her first chance at a forehand to even the score at 3-3.

“Kim played really well, and I think she came out with a really big plan,” said Williams. “I think that the next time we play I’ll know a little bit more about her game, what to expect, and what to do.”

Clijsters held to take a 4-3 lead, then earned three break points in Williams’ ensuing service game. But as she’s prone to do, Williams fought back. She didn’t miss during a double-digit rally to save the first break point. She stepped inside the baseline to crush a swinging forehand volley on the second. And on the third, Williams smacked a 112 mph ace past an outstretched Clijsters.

Williams held for 4-4, but perhaps even more impressively, Clijsters didn’t sulk over lost opportunities. The Belgian held with a 109 mph ace; bring herself one game from the final.

Williams responded with a love service hold. Clijsters rebounded with a love hold of her own.

Serving at 5-6, Williams made two more backhand errors to fall behind 15-30. Her second foot-fault of the match was called by a different linesperson than the first. Having gone through the motions for the better part of an hour-and-a-half, Williams couldn’t contain her emotions, verbally abusing the lineswoman who called her for the foot fault.

About 20 minutes following her tirade, a composed Williams said she likely foot-faulted.

“I’m pretty sure I did,” said Williams. “If she called a foot fault, she must have seen a foot fault. She was doing her job. I’m not going to knock her for not doing her job.”

The rest is history. An angry Williams walked off the court after the ruling while a stunned Clijsters accepted victory in an unlikely fashion. She will play No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark Sunday in the women’s final.

The Belgian improved to 2-8 lifetime against Williams. She’s the first wild card to ever reach the US Open final and the first player to defeat both Venus and Serena Williams at the same tournament twice.

Clijsters has now won 13 consecutive matches at the US Open dating back to her title run in 2005. Williams’ streak of 24 straight sets won in Flushing is over.

After retiring in May 2007, Clijsters can’t believe that she’s in the final of a Grand Slam after missing the last 10.

“I never really expected to be beating Venus and beating Serena,” said Clijsters, who upset Venus in the fourth round. “You try and you try to bring your best tennis, but you don’t expect things to be going this well this soon.

“That’s why I, knock on wood, just try to stay focused and not lose my rhythm that I’ve been having over these last two-and-a-half, almost three weeks that we’ve been here. Just trying to keep that going until the whole tournament is finished.”

– UsOpen.org

Categories:  Top Stories, Tennis

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