U.S. Open '09: Comeback Mom Completes Her Fairy Tale Story

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U.S. Open '09: Comeback Mom Completes Her Fairy Tale Story
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

It was 1980 when Evonne Goolagong Cawley won the Wimbledon Championship as a mother, but since then no other mom has been able to repeat her feat—until Sunday. Margaret Court and Dorothea Douglass Lambert Chambers are the only other mothers to achieve a victory at a Grand Slam.

It was fitting, hence, that the Belgian lady followed the feat to become the next woman to achieve a Grand Slam after her instant comeback, at a time when women's tennis is struggling with consistency.

Goolagong Cawley and Kim Clijsters had always been overshadowed by the more celebrated champions—the former under Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, and the young Belgian under her compatriot, Justine Henin.

After enjoying aspects of life away from tennis, Clijsters returned at Wimbledon in an exhibition match against Steffi Graf and looked extremely match fit.

She improved herself in the pre-U.S. Open series with big upsets and received a wild card for the Open, where she continued her fairy tale run by dispatching one player after other, including the two most dominant players of the era—the Williams Sisters.

It was fitting, therefore, to see her lift the trophy under the bright lights of the Arthur Ashe Stadium in the presence of her daughter, to complete her impressive comeback story with the 7-5, 6-3 victory, stories which rarely end in such a romantic fashion.

Her opponent in the final was an impressive teenager, ninth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, who has had the most successful season of her life and, in winning 62 matches, is leading the WTA in the number of victories for the calendar year.

After an unusual finish the semifinals, the outcome of the final was unpredictable. Would Clijsters be mentally tired after her victory over two top seeds and her long match against Serena Williams or would she use her experience to absorb the pressure of a big match?

Wozniacki is new to the big stage but would be extremely confident and fresh after her relatively smoother run to the Open.

Their styles of play were matched, as both are extremely solid defensive players, turning to offense when necessary, which promised to give us a dramatic final.

The match started with both players trading baseline rallies and Kim having the upper hand as she made the Dane run all over the court.

Perhaps it was her confidence boosted by returning the best server of the WTA tour a day before that she broke early to gain the upper hand.

Wozniacki showed supreme composure for a teenager as she kept on chasing ball after balls, showing good defense—especially on the backhand side.

Clijsters pushed the Dane back with clever use of her moonballs, as she quickly raced up to a 40-0 lead in the third game.

This is when the famous breakdown of Clijsters happened. She started throwing error after error—especially on the forehand wing—and gave the game to Wozniacki, who then began to dominate the proceedings.

Wozniacki played cleverly, as she robbed Clijsters of any pace—which she had utilized so effectively against Serena—and made the mom do a little extra on her groundies, which eventually resulted in errors.

Wozniacki’s temperament needs another mention, as she never let the big stage affect her. At no point of time did she looked tense, and she never looked frustrated or confused during the match.

It was evident when she saved three break points—one of them with an athletic overhead—to consolidate her break by leading 4-2 and looking poised to take the first set.

Clijsters slowed herself down, regained her momentum, and played patiently—not being fizzled by Wozniacki’s defense—to gain her break back and eventually serve out the set at 7-5.

A nice solid fist pump toward her camp showed that she was back in the game, determined to win the match, and that she was not choking, as she has done earlier on countless occasions.

The second set was much cleaner from both players, as the ground strokes became better, errors were fewer and players approached the net more often.

They held serve comfortably for the first four games, after which Clijsters played an aggressive return game to earn a break—the last of the match—to pump herself up.

Each player held serve—albeit with a lot of difficulty—as the tension built up at Arthur Ashe when Clijsters finally served at 5-3. She did not err this time and closed out the match with a dominant overhead at the net to complete her remarkable comeback.

It can be jokingly said that she successfully defended her crown of 2005, as she did not play between 2006 and 2008.

Wozniacki was cheerful and showed good sportsmanship spirit as she cheerfully acknowledged the deserving champion. She was all smiles during the presentation—unbelievable for a 19-year-old—and looked satisfied with her run, looking forward to her future endeavors.

The charming Dane even thrilled the crowd by presenting her runner-up speech in three different languages—much to the excitement of the crowd and the disdain of Mary Jo Fernandez.

Her calm composure, strong temperament, clean ground strokes, and superlative defense has shown promise for further success.

She would like to improve more on her net play and returns of serve—especially on her forehand side—and she will be ready for a victory speech as well.

The moment, however, belongs to Kim Clijsters, which can be termed as “Return of the Queen.”

Truth is stranger than fiction.

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