US Open: Vera Zvonareva slated after Kim Clijsters defeat
Vera Zvonareva faced sharp criticism following her capitulation in the women's final at Flushing Meadows on Saturday night and there is no question that the Russian underperformed.
Kim Clijsters' 6-2, 6-1 victory in just 59 minutes was the most one-sided US Open final in 34 years and Zvonareva's performance was hugely disappointing, not only for her but for all supporters of women's tennis.
But the effort Zvonareva put in to reach her second straight Grand Slam final and the way she dismantled the game of top seed Caroline Wozniacki to get there should not be forgotten.
A one-sided final never looks good, of course, but the women's game is too often an easy target. After all, no-one lambasted Mikhail Youzhny after he was hammered by an utterly ruthless Rafael Nadal in the last four of the men's event.
Zvonareva knows she did not play anywhere near her best and admitted her frustration afterwards. But even if she had have been on top form, it still might not have been good enough to overcome Clijsters, who must wish every Grand Slam event was played here. The Belgian successfully defended the title she won 12 months ago, and all three of her Grand Slam victories have come at the US Open.
It seems strange to think that Clijsters used to be thought of as something of a choker, someone who would buckle at the very top level. She lost her first four Grand Slam finals and was fortunate that when she broke the duck at Flushing Meadows in 2003, she did so by beating France's Mary Pierce and not one of the Williams sisters.
But since returning from a two-year break in which she had her first child, everything has changed. Her victory here last year was remarkable in that it was just her third tournament back, but one year on, especially with the injured Serena Williams missing, she was expected to win and she did so.
Clijsters says she wants to play at least until the Olympics in London in 2012, so there is time aplenty for her to win more Grand Slam titles, something that would put her higher up in the record books.
"It's not that I think about that but maybe when I'm older and retired, I'm sure it will be nice," said Clijsters, too modest to admit she thinks too much about her place in history. "But it's not that that's something I'm trying to achieve once I'm out on court."
Clijsters has always been one of the fittest and fastest players on tour but what was equally encouraging was that she found a way to win the title even though she arrived in New York with one or two question marks surrounding her form.
"I wasn't playing my best tennis when I wanted to at the beginning," she admitted. "But I was able to lift my game in the last two matches when I needed to, and that is probably what I'm most pleased with over these last 14 days here."
Well, that and winning another Grand Slam title.