NEW YORK — From the time she was a teen, Kim Clijsters loved playing on American hardcourts. She liked the way she could move on the surface, liked the way she could see the ball.
Her game is now as good as it gets on this stuff.
The Belgian won her second consecutive U.S. Open championship and third overall, easily beating Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 6-1 Saturday night in a final that lasted 59 minutes and lacked any drama.
"I'm glad to be standing here as the winner now. New York is an amazing place for me," Clijsters said. "The U.S. Open brings nothing but happiness to my tennis life."
Clijsters, 27, is the first woman since Venus Williams in 2000-01 to win the title two years in a row. And her U.S. Open winning streak is actually up to 21 matches because she also won the 2005 title. She missed the tournament in 2006 because of injuries, including wrist surgery, and skipped it the next two years while taking time off to get married and have a baby.
Last year in New York, when daughter Jada, now 21/2, pranced around the court during the postmatch ceremony, Clijsters became the first mother since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980 to take home a major trophy.
"It's been an incredible year being back. This is the first time I've been able to defend my title here at the U.S. Open," Clijsters said, reaching down to fix Jada's hair, getting mussed in the breeze. "The conditions have been very hard the last two weeks with wind."
Clijsters also was awarded $2.2 million: the champion's check of $1.7 million and $500,000 for finishing second in the U.S. Open series standings, which take into account hardcourt tuneup tournaments.
After losing the first four Grand Slam finals of her career, Clijsters has won her past three. Perhaps that will give hope to Zvonareva, who is 0-2 in major championship matches after losing to Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final in July.
Her eyes red from crying, Zvonareva, who turned 26 Tuesday, said, "Kim played tremendously well (Saturday night). She deserved to win. Even though I'm disappointed at the moment, I still love New York."
Not since 1995 has a U.S. Open women's final lasted three sets. You have to go back to 1976 to find a women's final in which the loser won only three games. Clijsters, seeded second, was too dominant. Zvonareva, seeded seventh, was too shaky.
Over and over, Clijsters scrambled to balls that seemed out of reach and got them over the net, sometimes doing full splits along the baseline. She compiled a 17-6 edge in winners and made nine fewer unforced errors than Zvonareva, 24-15.
As the match grew increasingly lopsided, the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium fell silent, as if embarrassed for the Russian, whose wails and dejected posture telegraphed defeat on nearly every point.
"People are shocked this is so one-sided," said four-time U.S. Open champion John McEnroe, commenting on the match for CBS. "It's taking the air out of the building."
Said Clijsters, "I think it took me six or seven years of (reaching Grand Slam) finals before I finally got one. Vera, keep it going! You're a great player, and it will happen."
Kim Clijsters (2) defeated Vera Zvonareva (7) 6-2, 6-1 to win the U.S. Open.
1 Aces 1
4 Double faults 2
66 First serve pct. 77
48 1st serve winning pct. 78
36 2nd serve winning pct. 55
6 Winners 17
24 Unforced errors 15
6-11 Net points won 10-14
0-2 Break points won 4-5
31 Total points won 58
Time of match: 59 minutes