New York :Kim Clijsters has an opportunity Saturday night to do what no woman has done since 2001: successfully defend her United States Open title.
Although Clijsters is the defending champion, the No. 2 seed and has beaten her opponent, Vera Zvonareva, twice already this year, this could be a very competitive match.
No one doubts that Zvonareva has the game to win a Slam event. But she can often lose focus, as she did at the Open last year in spectacular fashion against Flavia Pennetta. That version of Zvonareva has not made an appearance here.
But on Saturday, Zvonareva will be playing on her favorite surface in prime time, a position she has never been in before. And while Caroline Wozniacki, her semifinal opponent, has built her game around placement, spin and variety, Clijsters is about hitting the ball hard, really hard.
In other words, Clijsters will be able to hit past Zvonareva in much the same way she did to beat Venus Williams in the semifinals.
The marquee men's semifinal pits Roger Federer against Novak Djokovic. Every year here it seems that Federer's road to the final goes through Djokovic, and 2010 is no exception. For the fourth straight year, the two will meet in Arthur Ashe Stadium, with the winner gaining a place in Sunday's final.
Each of their three previous matches has been competitive, but each has ultimately ended in a Federer win. Is 2010 the year Djokovic breaks through? If this were the vulnerable Federer of earlier this year, Djokovic would have a good chance. But so far in the tournament, Federer, a five-time Open champion, has been dominant.
Against Robin Soderling, Federer played as if the near gale-force winds were blowing only on his opponent's side of the court. He had 18 aces and put 64 percent of his first serves in play, incredible statistics given the conditions. Not only has Federer not lost a set so far, only one player, Jrgen Melzer, has even come close to winning one.
Djokovic has a chance, but only if Federer suddenly reverts to the shaky form he displayed earlier this year.
The other semifinal pits Rafael Nadal against Mikhail Youzhny, who is having his best Open as a professional. Unfortunately for him, Nadal is, too, which makes it hard to see this match as anything but an amusing prelude to what should be an epic Nadal-Federer final showdown.
Youzhny is a former top-10 player who, after a couple of years of foundering, seems to have rediscovered his game. A crafty, consistent baseliner who can finish points at the net, he is the sort of player who might have given Nadal trouble on hardcourts in previous years.
But through five matches, Nadal has been nearly as dominant as Federer, reaching the semifinals without dropping a set and seeming to get stronger as his competition improved. If Nadal continues to play as well as he has been, he should have no trouble getting past Youzhny and into his first final here.