NEW YORK – Serena Williams’ injured leg kept her from a chance to avenge her U.S. Open loss to Kim Clijsters. So sister Venus took care of the job.
Venus Williams defeated Kim Clijsters 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 on Monday night at Madison Square Garden to win the Billie Jean King Cup in the BNP Paribas Showdown, a match she lost a year ago to Serena.
Venus said she missed having her younger sister around for the match but didn’t talk with her about the possibility of facing Clijsters.
“On the way here, I kept thinking, ‘I’m going to see Serena in New York,”‘ Venus said. “We talked today, but we didn’t talk about tennis at all.”
Serena Williams withdrew a week ago because of her leg, ending what would have been the first meeting between her and Clijsters since the U.S. Open semifinals in September. Serena unleashed a tirade against a line judge after she was called for a foot fault near the end of the match, and Clijsters went on to win the championship.
The 26-year-old Belgian struggled early against the elder Williams before finding a groove in front of a very Venus-friendly crowd of 11,702 in the second set.
“In the beginning it took some time to find an aggressive game,” Clijsters said. “If you’re not feeling the ball 100 per cent, it’s very hard. I kind of just had to look for my game a little bit, really look for my position on court. I got better as my match went on.”
Williams broke Clijsters in the first game and then held each of her serves to win the first set. Up 40-0 in the final game, Williams aced to take the set.
In the second set, Williams again won the first two games but got sloppy, volleying one break point out of bounds and hitting another past the baseline. Clijsters held her serve for the rest of the set to win.
Williams was down 3-4 in the final set when Clijsters hit a volley into the net on break point to tie the set. The pair held their serve the rest of the way until Clijsters, down 15-40, hit the break point past the baseline to hand Williams the win and US$400,000 of the $1.2 million prize money.
“I always feel really confident on match point, so I love getting to that match point,” Williams said. “At quadruple match point I felt nice.”
King did not attend the exhibition because she is recovering from a recent double-knee replacement.
Clijsters beat Serena’s replacement, Ana Ivanovic, 7-2 in the first of the one-set, no-ad semifinals, easily outscoring the 22-year-old Serb and 2008 French Open champion 7-2 in the tiebreaker.
Down 5-4, Clijsters rallied from 0-30 to hold serve and won the next two games. Ivanovic won the 12th game 40-0 to force the 13-point tiebreaker.
“I think our games in some ways are similar,” Ivanovic said. “It was a tough match. i was actually very nervous, but it makes it an important match. I just wanted to do so well.”
Williams beat third-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 French Open winner, in the second semifinal 6-4. Kuznetsova took a 2-0 lead but struggled with her serve. Down 15-40 in the final game, the 24-year-old Russian double-faulted on her serve to hand Williams the match.
“You would like for it to last a little bit longer because one set is very difficult to play,” Kuznetsova said. “It was fun. The match was close, and I enjoyed the experience.”
Before the final, the International Tennis Hall of Fame inductees Gigi Fernandez, Owen Davidson and Brad Parks were introduced on court. They are part of the 2010 class announced Monday that includes doubles specialists Todd Woodbridge, Mark Woodforde and Natasha Zvereva.