New York: Second seed Aryna Sabalenka staged a Grand Slam fight back for the ages to rock Madison Keys 0-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(5) on Thursday to deny the home crowd the all-American US Open women's final they had been dreaming of.
Sabalenka will now try to heap even more disappointment on US tennis fans in Saturday's final when she takes on Coco Gauff, who beat Karolina Muchova 6-4, 7-5 in a match halted for nearly an hour when an environmental activist glued his feet to the floor of Arthur Ashe Stadium.
A giddy capacity crowd waving US flags were ready to celebrate getting the final they hoped for when Keys bageled the Belarusian in the opening set and was 5-3 up in the second, serving for a spot in the final.
But Sabalenka had other ideas.
Her fightback began by breaking Keys to get back to 5-4 and continuing the match. It would end two tie-breaks later with the Belarusian walking off court into her second Grand Slam final of the season.
In a contest featuring two of the biggest hitters in the women's game, it was Keys coming out with guns blazing to dominate the Belarusian, who will take over as world No. 1 when the rankings are updated on Monday.
Soaking up the energy of the home crowd, the 17th seed unleashed a barrage of winners and broke Sabalenka three times to open the match 6-0.
Keys broke the Australian Open champion for a fourth time for a 2-1 lead in the second, leaving a frustrated Sabalenka screaming and smashing her racquet.
But with Keys serving for a place in the final the Sabalenka who players fear finally appeared.
The Belarusian got her first break of match as the set went to a tie-break which she won 7-1, sending the contest to a third set that minutes earlier no one saw coming.
With the tension rising so did the quality of the match, the players trading breaks in a tight third set that came down to a super tie-breaker which Sabalenka again dominated 10-5.