Two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has reached the US Open final for the second time in her career with a thrilling 7-6(1) 3-6 6-3 victory over American hope Jennifer Brady.
Brady arrived at her first Grand Slam semi-final without having dropped a set in New York and did not show any nerves, but Osaka's firepower allowed her to get by the 28th seed.
Fourth seed Osaka, who won the first of two consecutive Grand Slam titles two years ago in New York, fired 35 winners and had 17 unforced errors as steady rain pounded on the roof of an otherwise quiet Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"I really love the atmosphere even though there's sadly no people here," says Osaka. "This court really suits me well."
Osaka set the tone early when she served out to love to open the match, but she soon learned she had a battle on her hands as a composed Brady came out swinging in a contest that featured just six break-point opportunities.
Japanese world No.9 Osaka turned aside a break point while serving at 3-3 in the first stanza, held at love to get ahead 5-4 and then ran away in the tiebreak to close out a set in which she made just four unforced errors.
Brady, however, was not rattled and dropped only four points through her first four service games of the second set before securing the first break of the match for a 5-3 lead that she would consolidate to force a decider.
From there it was all Osaka, who built on an early break to lead 4-1 before going on to seal the match as Brady, whose previous best Grand Slam performances came in 2017 when she reached the fourth round in Melbourne and New York.
Osaka's victory sends her back to the Flushing Meadows final, where in 2018 she beat Williams in a match that saw the American become involved in a series of confrontations with the chair umpire.
Osaka will play former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the final.
Azarenka beat Serena Williams 1-6 6-3 6-3 in their semi-final, denying the American a chance of winning a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title on home soil this year.
Six-times US Open champion Williams came out firing winners from all sides of the Arthur Ashe Stadium court and wrapped up the opening set in little more than half an hour.
Azarenka, playing her first Grand Slam semi-final in seven years, raised her game in the second stanza and came out on top after some explosive exchanges of power-hitting.
The twice Australian Open champion kept up the pressure in the third as 38-year-old Williams struggled with an injury to her left ankle and sealed her place in the final with an ace.