NEW YORK — The celebration was muted for Kim Clijsters at first. Her opponent, Vera Zvonareva, provided little opposition in the U.S. Open women's tennis final, unraveling bit by bit and never offering a moment of competitive tenseness.
So the second-seeded Clijsters won the U.S. Open on Saturday night 6-2, 6-1 in 59 minutes over the seventh-seeded Zvonareva in an anticlimactic prime-time women's final.
After Clijsters had hugged Zvonareva and told her beaten opponent that it takes some time to feel comfortable in these big matches, it was left for Clijsters' 30-month-old daughter, Jada, to bring the joy to the court after the match, the shortest Open final since time was officially recorded in 1980.
Jada kissed her mom and was dazzled by the sparkling trophy. She mouthed "No pictures," towards photographers, and held up a tape measure that seemed to have no purpose except to keep a toddler amused.
There were large portions of the final when all of the 23,443 in Arthur Ashe Stadium might have wished for their own tape measures.
The unraveling of Zvonareva, 26, began in the sixth game of the first set when she had her serve broken in a flurry of forehand errors.
It picked up speed early in the second set when Zvonareva did the splits trying to track down a Clijsters forehand. She missed and in her frustration the Russian pummeled her tennis racket until the frame broke.
What followed quickly was Clijsters' 21st straight win in this tournament. She had won the championship in 2005, missed one year with an injury, two because of retirement, and then won last year, a title that was touched by controversy because she was the semifinal opponent when Serena Williams melted down over a late foot fault call and left the tournament after a obscene tantrum directed at the lineswoman who made the call.
This year Clijsters' toughest challenge again came from a Williams, this time 30-year-old Venus, who took the first set against Clijsters in the semifinals before losing in three.
It was the second straight Grand Slam finals appearance for Zvonareva. She lost to Serena Williams at Wimbledon 6-3, 6-2.
The only bright spot for Zvonareva came in the fourth game of the second set when Zvonareva earned her first break point. Clijsters promptly put in her first ace of the match and a point later followed up with a leaping overhead. Clijsters pumped her fist into the silence of the stadium. Most of the night crowd was hoping for a longer fight that wouldn't come.
"It's very tough," Clijsters said while she was still on court. "Vera was saying before the ceremony that she was frustrated over the way she played. I said I know exactly the way you feel. In those finals I lost I felt I never played my best tennis."
Clijsters won $2.5 million — $1.7 million for the Open title and a $500,000 bonus for finishing second during the summer series of hard court tournaments.