Finally, a grand slam title for Clijsters

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Belgium’s Kim Clijsters won the US Open women’s singles title here Saturday with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over France’s Mary Pierce. The fourth-seeded Belgian finally shed the label of one of the best WTA Tour players never to win a major title, needing little more than an hour to dispatch her 12th-seeded opponent.

Clijsters, a former world No. 1 who had fallen short in four previous Grand Slam finals appearances, wasn’t going to let it happen again.

She refused to be intimidated by Pierce’s deep, heavy strokes, and took full advantage of the French player’s numerous errors, especially off the forehand side.

Both of Clijsters’s breaks came with the aid of wayward efforts from Pierce, whose first-set effort was littered with 19 errors.

But the Belgian wobbled late in the first set, after breaking Pierce for the second time to lead 4-1, punctuating a loose service game with a double fault to let Pierce pull back to 2-4.

Pierce held for 3-4, but Clijsters cleaned up her act to win the next two games, wrapping up the set on her second match point.

Pierce, who sparked a controversy with a lengthy injury break during her semi-final victory over Elena Dementieva, had the wrapping on her right thigh reinforced by a trainer after the first set, and briefly left the court.

She appeared no more comfortable upon her return however, as Clijsters raced to a 3-0 lead.

Pierce, trying to stay aggressive, was too often left flatfooted at the net, but finally held for 3-1.

Clijsters responded by closing out the next game with three service winners for a commanding 4-1 edge, and Pierce helped her to the next game with two more forehand errors.

Serving for the match, Clijsters delayed her long awaited Grand Slam crown with a double fault that gave Pierce the first of two break points, but Clijsters salvaged them both.

She sailed a forehand long on her first championship point, but there was no mistake as she fired an unreturnable serve on her second.

Her triumph capped a phenomenal comeback season that has included seven titles.

As recently as February, Clijsters was ranked a lowly 134th in the world as she missed the better part of 12 months in the aftermath of surgery on her left wrist.