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NEW YORK (Reuters) - After making a dream comeback at last year's U.S. Open, Kim Clijsters will be coming back to the women's final after overtaking Venus Williams in Friday's semi-finals at Flushing Meadows.
The 27-year-old Clijsters struck a blow for working mothers everywhere when she returned to tennis after more than two years off to start a family, and in her third tournament back claimed the U.S. Open championship.
With seventh-seeded Russian Vera Zvonareva the last woman standing in her way of a successful defense, the second-seeded Belgian said the whole adventure still amazed her.
"This is what you try to achieve," she conceded. "But I never expected that I would come back in this position."
Last year her infant daughter Jada cavorted on center court around the silver trophy. Jada might get another late-night play date following Saturday night's women's final.
"It wasn't always that easy but I'm glad I stuck through it and I can live these kind of moments," Clijsters said after her 4-6 7-6 6-4 comeback win over big-hitting Williams.
The victory over the third-seeded American extended Clijsters's U.S. Open winning streak to 20 consecutive matches dating back to her title run in 2005.
The last time Clijsters lost at the Open came in 2004 in the final against fellow-Belgian Justine Henin.
"I always feel good here," she said. "This is where I've played some of the best tennis that I've ever played."
Clijsters said defeating seven-time grand slam winner Williams, twice a U.S. Open champion, was gratifying.
"It's a good feeling. I think today was probably one of the best matches that I've played throughout the tournament.
"I was able to raise my level and that's probably what I'm most pleased about. I was able to win a close match like this and kind of rise on the occasion when I had to."
While it all sounds rather dreamy, Clijsters said hard work was at the root of her successful comeback.
"I know where I came from," she said. "You know, I didn't do anything for a year and half almost, and just the amount of work that I put in, that's where I look back to."
Clijsters expects Saturday's last bit of work to include an element of fun under the lights on Arthur Ashe center court.
"The night matches, they're special," she said. "The crowd gets into it. It's fun, and to have the crowd into it and the support, I mean, there's a different vibe."
Editing by Nick Mulvenney