Tonight in Flushing Meadows, wild card Kim Clijsters became the first unseeded woman in history to win the U.S. Open. She defeated 9th seed Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 6-3, in a match that contained momentum shifts early on, lots of wind, and--after she steadied herself--a dominant performance from Clijsters.
The 2005 U.S. Open champion went up a break right away, but Wozniacki was able to not only get that break back, but to break Clijsters, who had difficulty handling the high bounces coming at her from Wozniacki's backhand. Wozniacki was also winning points at the net, and Clijsters was making unexpected errors.
At 5-all, however, the match took a turn, as Clijsters began to hit with more power and more accuracy. She broke Wozniacki, then held to take the first set. She was dominant in the second set, using a combination of power and tenacity against her opponent.
Clijsters hit 36 winners and broke Wozniacki five times. Wozniacki, however, has plenty to be proud of, reaching her first major final in fine style, and performing well in the final. She is the first player from Denmark to reach a final in a major tournament.
Kim Clijsters retired from professional tennis over two years ago. Her interest in returning to the tour was stirred by her training for an exhibition match played to celebrate the construction of the new Centre Court roof at Wimbledon. This summer, she played two U.S. Open Series matches before entering the Open as a wild card, and lost to Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina.
When Clijsters retired in 2007, she said her body was too damaged for her to go on, and that she was in pain much of the time. She said recently that all the time off aided her body in healing, and that she believes she now knows more about how to prevent injury. A year and a half ago, she gave birth to a daughter, who charmed the crowd tonight when she reached for her mother's shiny new trophy.
In a U.S. Open packed with drama from start to finish, it seems only fitting that the popular Belgian player's comeback is the final statement. When the rankings come out next week, Clijsters will be in the top 20, where she belongs.