World number one Iga Swiatek defeated Aryna Sabalenka in three sets to set up a US Open final showdown with Ons Jabeur on Thursday.
Two-time French Open champion Swiatek came from behind to defeat sixth-seed Sabalenka 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 at Arthur Ashe Stadium and reach her maiden US Open final.
Tunisia’s fifth seed Jabeur demolished Caroline Garcia 6-1, 6-3 in just 1hr 6min to become the first African woman in history to reach her second Grand Slam final.
Sabalenka had been chasing the first Grand Slam final of her career after just missing out with semi-final defeats at Wimbledon and the US Open last year.
But the 24-year-old from Belarus suffered a late collapse while leading in the third set as Swiatek edged victory.
Polish star Swiatek said an emergency bathroom break after losing the first set had been crucial.
“I kind of needed to go,” Swiatek said. “For sure I felt lighter. I’m sorry – that’s disgusting,” the 21-year-old added.
“I tried to use that time to think about what to change because I remember when I was younger all I would do in the bathroom between sets after I lost was cry.
“But this time I could think about what to change and actually problem solve.”
Sabalenka looked well placed to break her final duck as she swept into an early lead against the top seed.
The hard-hitting Sabalenka broke Swiatek three times in the opening set, rattling her opponent’s shaky service game and stretching her with an array of powerful groundstrokes.
But Swiatek looked rejuvenated after her bathroom break following the first set and came out for the second all guns blazing.
She broke Sabalenka to love in the opening game and then held twice for a 3-1 lead.
She sealed a further break with a backhand cross-court return of serve to open up a 4-1 advantage as Sabalenka struggled to cope with the change in tempo.
She was broken again in the seventh game, Swiatek levelling the match after Sabalenka fluffed an easy volley at the net on set point.
Nevertheless Sabalenka appeared to have stopped the bleeding in the third set.
She broke Swiatek in the opening game and then broke again for a 3-2 lead after Swiatek had broken back.
She held serve for a 4-2 lead and the momentum seemed to be with her.
But Sabalenka’s game disintegrated from that point on. Swiatek broke her to love to make it 4-4 and then held for a 5-4 lead.
Sabalenka was overrun in the 10th game as Swiatek raced into a 0-40 lead to move to triple matchpoint.
Sabalenka held off the first with a forehand volley at the net, but her 44th unforced error on the next point sealed her fate.
Jabeur into second Major final
Jabeur made history as the first African woman to reach the final of Wimbledon in July.
“It feels amazing,” Jabeur said. “After Wimbledon I had a lot of pressure on me and I’m really relieved that I can back up my results.
“The hard court season started a little bit bad, but I’m very happy that I made it to the finals here.”
Jabeur’s victory extended her career-long domination of Garcia.
The 28-year-old Tunisian had beaten Garcia four times as a junior in Grand Slam events, and twice as a professional in Slams before Thursday.
“I know she was playing amazing tennis and that puts a lot of pressure on you,” Jabeur said. “It wasn’t easy for me but mentally I was so ready.”
Jabeur will head into Saturday’s final brimming with confidence after a dominant victory over the in-form Garcia.
Garcia, seeded 17, had arrived in the last four on the back of a 13-match winning streak which included a victory at the Cincinnati Masters lead-in event.
But Jabeur ruthlessly dismantled Garcia’s dream of becoming the first French woman to win the US Open crown with a clinical win.
Garcia later admitted she had struggled to cope with the pressure of the occasion.
“Obviously nerves were there,” Garcia said. “Today I did know it was semi-finals, so you know what it’s bringing you if you win and what you want to achieve. It’s a dream since I’m a little girl.
“I tried the best I could. I kept fighting, kept going for it, because I know it’s my way to do things.”
Jabeur fired down eight aces and won 83% of her points on first serve.
Garcia looked hesitant from the outset and handed Jabeur an early break point in the opening game when she missed an easy smash with the court wide open.
Jabeur duly converted the break and never looked back thereafter, breaking Garcia on two further occasions in a first set that saw the Frenchwoman make 14 unforced errors.
Jabeur was soon back on top in the second set, breaking Garcia again in the fourth game before holding for a commanding 4-1 lead.
With the next three games going with serve, Jabeur served for the match at 5-3.
Garcia, who had failed to earn a single break point throughout the match, was again unable to put pressure on Jabeur, who wrapped up victory when a weak Garcia return of serve flopped into the net.
Jabeur meanwhile saluted Tunisian supporters, stating that fans in her homeland had tuned in to her quarter-final earlier this week instead of Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League clash with Juventus.
“Usually in Tunisia they follow soccer but that time they chose to watch my match,” she said. “That’s unbelievable. So thank you guys in Tunisia if you’re still awake and watching.”