Favorite Clijsters prepares for Zvonareva's best

Fri Sep 10, 2010 10:28pm EDT
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By Julian Linden

NEW YORK (Reuters) - If winning the U.S. Open ever came down to a popularity contest, Kim Clijsters would be roared to victory every time.

The Belgian mother charmed the New York crowds last year when she celebrated an unlikely victory by fooling around with her infant daughter Jada on the center court.

Clijsters has won the hearts of the crowds again this year, despite reaching Saturday's final at the expense of the last American left standing in the singles draw, Venus Williams.

The 27-year-old came from behind to win 4-6 7-6 6-4 on Friday and will play Vera Zvonereva in the final after the Russian upset Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki 6-4 6-3. She is sure to be the favorite both the oddsmakers and the spectators in the stands.

She was a finalist at the U.S. Open in 2004 then won the title in 2005. She missed the next three years, first through injury then after taking a break to start a family, before winning on her return in 2009.

Her winning streak now stands at 20 matches and the crowds have been lapping it up. It is as though her fairytale run to the title last year is being played out all over again.

The former world number one knows, however, that sentiment plays no part in professional tennis and her Russian opponent is dangerous, despite never having won a major title.

This year Zvonareva played her first grand slam final at Wimbledon and she has not dropped a set so far at Flushing Meadows. More worryingly for Clijsters, Zvonareva has won their last two clashes, both this year, after losing the first five.   Continued...

<p>Kim Clijsters of Belgium hits a return to Venus Williams of the U.S. during the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, September 10, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque</p>