Clijsters' was anything but easy. Struggling with her serve, shaky off both arms and bothered by the wind, defending champion Kim Clijsters barely got past French Open runner-up Sam Stosur of Australia 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in the quarterfinals Tuesday night.
"After the match, I was like, 'How did I win this?' I didn't feel like I was playing well; Sam is a good player," Clijsters said after double-faulting eight times, making 43 total unforced errors and losing seven of her 19 service games, "so I was just kind of talking to my coach and fitness coach and just (saying), 'Wow. What just happened? How did I win?"'
Continued Clijsters, who had 16 unforced errors on forehands, 17 on backhands: "Next match, everything will have to be a lot better."
That next match for Clijsters, who now has 19 consecutive victories at the U.S. Open, will be a semifinal against another woman who has won two championships at the U.S. Open, Venus Williams.
They have played 12 times previously, each winning six, but Clijsters has taken the last four in a row, including in the fourth round last year in New York.
The No. 2-seeded Clijsters and No. 5 Stosur both found the swirling air a problem, particular when serving. There were a total of 15 service breaks, including a stretch in which there were nine in a span of 10 games.
"I don't think either of us played our best tennis tonight, by any means," said Stosur, whose fourth-round match ended at 1:35 a.m. Monday, the latest finish for a women's match at the U.S. Open. She got broken all four times she served in the final set. "Windiest conditions I've played in all week, and probably the worst I've served all week, as well," Stosur said. "Put those two things together, and you don't hold serve for the third set, and you lose."
Clijsters managed to hold in each of her last two service games, finishing things off with an ace, her fifth of the evening. "Yeah, that's probably all the frustration that comes out at the end," Clijsters said with a smile. "I'm just going to try and just remember the last serve I hit today and just try and focus on that one."
The Belgian won the U.S. Open the last two times she entered, in 2005 and _ after taking off 2 1/2 years to get married and have a baby _ in 2009. Now she is trying to become the first woman since Williams in 2000-01 to win the tournament two years in a row. Clijsters has won 25 of her last 26 matches in the tournament, but Australia's Stosur felt she had her opportunities to get to the U.S. Open semifinals for the first time.
"I know Kim's a great player, and a very tough opponent here. I mean, it wasn't the easiest match to win," Stosur said. "But when you have chances like that, that's what's disappointing _ not to kind of lose 'em on your own racket. I don't think she really stepped up and hit 12 winners to break my serve three times in a row."