New York - Defending champion Kim Clijsters beat Venus Williams in three sets on Friday to move one win away from her second straight U.S. Open title
Clijsters' 20th straight victory at Flushing Meadows earned her a place in Saturday's final against seventh-seeded Vera Zvonareva. Zvonareva reached her second straight Grand Slam final, defeating top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-3 earlier on Friday.
"Obviously, this is what you try to achieve," Clijsters said in an on-court interview. "I never expected I'd come back in this position. I was trying to do it. It wasn't easy but I stuck with it so you can have these moments."
The second-seeded Clijsters won 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 to defeat Williams for the fifth straight time.
Clijsters, who also won the tournament in 2005, is seeking to become the first woman since 2001 to successfully defend her US Open title.
Venus Williams was the last to do that. But 30-year-old American, seeded third, hasn't been back to the final since 2002.
Clijsters' final opponent in 2009, when she was playing only her third tournament back after a 2-year layoff, was Wozniacki, who was making her first major final appearance.
The 20-year-old Dane had been dominant in her run this year - she lost just 17 games in advancing to the semifinals, the fewest since Serena Williams dropped 14 in 2002.
But Zvonareva knocked Wozniacki off rhythm with powerful serves and assertive play, as the wind again made conditions difficult for players at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Zvonareva had five aces, and she won 70 percent of points on her first serve and 13 of 17 points at the net.
"It's the right balance between being patient and being aggressive," Zvonareva said. "With those windy conditions, you have to play sometimes ugly. You don't have to expect to play your best tennis."
Wozniacki had an uncharacteristic 31 unforced errors. She had been riding a 13-match winning streak and led the tour with 31 victories on hard courts this year. With top-ranked Serena Williams out with a foot injury, Wozniacki was seeded No. 1 at a Grand Slam for the first time.
"She was not missing a lot," Wozniacki said. "She was going for her shots. Most things were going in. You know, I had chances, and I made some mistakes today that I usually don't do."
Zvonareva, who turned 26 on Tuesday, had never been past the fourth round at the U.S. Open before this year. She lost to Serena Williams 6-3, 6-2 in her first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon in July.
Before this year's Wimbledon, Zvonareva had been to only one major semifinal in her career, at the 2009 Australian Open. Now she's made two straight finals. Zvonareva hasn't dropped a set the whole tournament.
She kept her emotions under control on Friday, unlike her fourth-round loss last year. It was one of the matches that helped cement her reputation as one of the most temperamental players on tour.
Zvonareva smacked herself in the head at one point during her three-set loss last year to 10th-seeded Flavia Pennetta, when she wasted six match points in the second set.
"Tennis is an emotional game," Zvonareva said on Friday. "As long as you know yourself and you know which emotions are good for you, which are bad, you can use it to your advantage."