Kim Clijsters of Belgium celebrates after a point against Venus...

Kim Clijsters of Belgium celebrates after a point against Venus Williams of the United States during her women's semifinal match on day twelve of the 2010 U.S. Open. (Sept. 10, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

Kim Clijsters is stamping her name on the deed to Arthur Ashe Stadium. At least she's making herself at home. Clijsters won her 20th straight match at the U.S. Open on Friday, a thoroughly intriguing and high-quality test against Venus Williams. The score line, 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-4, was a dead-accurate indicator of just how close this match was, of how close Williams was to returning to the final for the first time since 2002.

Now Clijsters, seeking her third Open title, will take the court Saturday night against Vera Zvonareva, who ousted top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki in the first semifinal. This is the first Open final for Zvonareva, who beat Clijsters this summer at Wimbledon and Montreal.

Clijsters won the Open in 2005, then retired during the 2006 season to recuperate from injuries and have a baby. In 2009, after a 27-month layoff, she returned to the game and surprisingly won the Open. Now she's in the final again, and there no longer are any surprises.

"Beating Venus here last year and this year, it's a good feeling," Clijsters said. "I was able to win a close match like this, that I was able to kind of rise to the occasion when I had to."

Williams' serve was nearly impenetrable in the first set. She gave up only five points in her five service games. Williams broke Clijsters in the seventh game and took the set in an efficient 35 minutes.

But Williams' serve began to sputter in the second set and Clijsters started playing closer to the baseline and forcing the issue. Clijsters got a break in the second game, though Williams appeared to right herself after ending her second service game with three straight aces. The players exchanged breaks, carrying the set to the tiebreaker, and Williams lost all four points on her serve and the tiebreaker, 7-2.

"The tiebreaker is a little more pressure and it was just tough to start serving with the wind behind you in the tiebreaker," Williams said. "It was a lot easier to serve into the wind. On that side, I was waiting a lot longer for the wind to stop blowing so you could get a good toss. Regardless, I've got to get it in and start the point."

Williams was broken again in the third game of the final set, but she earned a break against Clijsters' serve in the eighth game to equal it at 4-4. At 30-30 in the ninth game, Williams double-faulted to give Clijsters a break point. Clijsters got the break when she tracked down a deep volley by Williams and got the volley over her.

At 30, Williams thinks she still has a lot of tennis ahead of her.

"I definitely feel like I'll be back next year," said Williams, who hadn't played since Wimbledon while nursing a knee injury "This is what I do, and I feel like I played great tennis even with the minimal preparation . . . I may have lost the match, but that's just this match. There will be others."

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