Naomi Osaka produced a battling display to overcome Jennifer Brady in three sets and book her place in a second US Open final.
The 22-year-old edged a first-set tiebreak after a closely fought opening to the semi-final but found herself with a real challenge to overcome as Brady clinched the second set.
But after breaking in the middle of the final set, Osaka looked assured and focused as she sealed a 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 victory in an absorbing two hours contest at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Osaka will take on Victoria Azarenka in Saturday’s final after the Belarusian fought from a set down to beat Serena Williams.
There was a marked difference in these two players careers coming into the semi-final clash. Osaka, already a two-time Grand Slam winner, had won here in 2018 while Brady preparing for her first-ever semi-final of a Major.
But arguably, the 25-year-old was the form player of the tournament having not dropped a single set in her five previous matches – and hadn’t conceded more than four games in a set.
With the two biggest hitters on the WTA Tour, a fast-paced and high quality match of tennis was to be expected and the pair did not disappoint.
It was Osaka who began with a dominant love hold to set the standard and Brady soon found the level to match the Japanese.
While Osaka was dominating on her serve, winning 20 of her 21 first serve points, Brady was finding the corners with a powerful forehand and racking up four aces herself.
The no.4 seed had one question to answer after Brady earned a break point in the seventh game but kept her at an arm’s lenghth, recovering to hold and there was nothing to separate the two players after a breathless first set.
When it went to the tiebreak, Brady made a careless error to open and struggled to recover as Osaka cruised to a crushing 7-1 win in the breaker.
Osaka had won her last 34 matches across all Grand Slams when she won the first set, a run stretching back to 2016, and Brady would need something special to come back.
That would be enough to break any player’s spirit, but Brady – who played college tennis at UCLA – is a stubborn performer, a real fighter, and it showed in the second set.
She had to wait patiently for Osaka to drop her level on the serve and when the moment arrived in the eighth game, she edged an unbelievable baseline rally to lead 5-3 and locked down the break to force a deciding set.
While so many matches drop in intensity and quality as it goes on, this contest seemed to be increasing in its watchability. Neither player was relenting to the point where it felt almost a shame that one would be going out of the tournament.
As the rain lashed down in New York onto the closed roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Brady suffered a lapse in concentration and conceded a vital break to Osaka, who could go on and seal this set from 3-1 up.
With some good fortune from the net cord and some incredible work at the net, Osaka locked down the break and cruised to victory in the end to reach her third Grand Slam final, where she will meet two-time finalist Azarenka.