NEW YORK — It wasn't the final point of the match, the winning forehand from Kim Clijsters that couldn't be chased down by a dispirited and slow-footed Venus Williams, that brought 23,000 people to their feet at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday.
That was just about expected because second-seeded and defending champion Clijsters had gained such momentum from another shot, a luxurious lob that sailed just beyond the racket of Williams and skipped off the baseline as Williams waved her racket helplessly.
That lob gave Clijsters the decisive service break. One game later, Clijsters won her 20th consecutive match at the U.S. Open 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 over the third-seeded Williams in the semifinals.
Saturday night, Clijsters will aim for her third U.S. title when she plays 26-year-old Vera Zvonareva, the seventh-seeded Russian who upset top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-3 in the first semifinal.
Williams, 30, has won two titles here but none since 2001. Yet she had seemed to gain strength in each of her five wins at this Open despite coming to New York nursing a knee injury that had kept her out since Wimbledon.
Williams lost the touch on her serve in the second-set tiebreak, putting in consecutive double faults that left her in an 0-3 hole.
"The tiebreak, obviously, is a little more pressure," Williams said. "And it was just tough to start serving with the wind behind you in the tiebreak. … Regardless, I've got to get it in and start the point."
As Williams faltered under pressure — she had 50 unforced errors in the match — Clijsters began to thrive, finding more ways to hit through the wind.
About that lob, Clijsters said: "It's instinct when you decide to do that and it worked. … "I think today was probably one of the best matches I've played throughout the tournament."
Wozniacki, a surprise finalist a year ago, brought a 13-match winning streak to the court.
But the strength of her game — calm, mistake-free defense — went away in the face of Zvonareva's aggressive play.
This is Zvonareva's second straight Grand Slam final. She made it to the end at Wimbledon, where she was beaten 6-3, 6-2 by Serena Williams.
Doubles: Twins Bob and Mike Bryan won their third U.S. Open title and their ninth Grand Slam championship, beating Rohan Bopanna of India and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4).
Saturday's men's semifinals: Top-seeded Rafael Nadal vs. 12th-seeded Mikhail Youzhny; third-seeded Novak Djokovic vs. second-seeded Roger Federer.