Serena Williams has another shot at winning a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title after demolishing Elina Svitolina to reach the US Open final.
The American, 37, overpowered the Ukrainian fifth seed to win 6-3 6-1.
Williams, seeded eighth, is aiming for her first Grand Slam win since giving birth in September 2017.
The six-time champion will face Canadian 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu in Saturday’s final in New York.
In a gripping encounter, Andreescu defeated 22-year-old Swiss Belinda Bencic 7-6 (7-3) 7-5, winning the last five games of the match.
Andreescu, who is playing in the US Open main draw for the first time and competing in only her fourth Grand Slam, was born nine months after Williams won her first title at Flushing Meadows in 1999.
Williams underlines why she is favourite for victory
Williams is already considered by many as the greatest female player ever, yet will not be satisfied herself until she has levelled – and then overtaken – Australian Margaret Court’s total of Grand Slam singles titles.
Following the difficult birth of daughter Olympia two years ago which almost cost Williams her life, she has reached consecutive Wimbledon finals – plus last year’s controversial US Open showpiece against Naomi Osaka – without capping what has already been a remarkable comeback with another major win.
For Williams to not go on and win a seventh US Open title – an Open era record in the women’s singles – would be a major shock on the evidence of her performances over the past two weeks.
Free of the knee injury which bothered her earlier this year, she is looking as sharp, powerful and clinical as she has in a long time.
That was illustrated by the ease with which she swatted aside Svitolina, the highest-ranked player to reach the last eight at Flushing Meadows and competing in her second successive Grand Slam semi-final.
The 24-year-old has one of the most impenetrable returning games on the WTA Tour, yet even she could not keep Williams at bay.
After a slow start where Svitolina could conceivably have led 2-0, it was the American who broke at the first attempt and from that point it was one-way traffic.
Williams found her range quickly and dominated with her powerful, precise hitting which resulted in 33 winners in a match which lasted only one hour and 10 minutes.
“The first two games were long games and I know how she can play – she is a good player,” Williams said.
“I wanted to not get off to a slow start and I wanted to hang in there.”
Svitolina rues missed opportunities
Svitolina was expected to provide a tougher test for Williams after clinically dispatching British number one Johanna Konta in their quarter-final on Wednesday.
With her fleet of foot and ability to return, she would have been hoping to withstand everything fired by Williams and then outlast her older opponent.
But even she could not cope with the pummelling produced by the American.
Svitolina’s inability to take any of six break points in the early part of the first set proved terminal to her hopes.
Helped by three unforced errors from Williams in the opening game, Svitolina created three break points which she could not convert and then saw her illustrious opponent fight back from 40-0 down to break for a 2-0 lead after a hard-fought 15 minutes.
Another 40-0 lead disappeared as Williams held for a 4-1 lead and from that point Svitolina’s confidence sapped, along with her ability to push her opponent.
“I just wish I could have taken those opportunities,” said Svitolina, who won the season-ending WTA Tour Finals last year.
“It could be maybe a 2-2 or 3-3 instead of 0-3, which allows you to push to play more freely.”
In the second set she was not able to touch Williams’ serve, winning just three receiving points.
“She has unbelievable strength. She gives lots of power,” Svitolina said.
“There’s lots of power behind her shots all the time. That’s what makes her an unbelievable, legendary tennis player.”
Determined Andreescu battles through
Saturday’s final at Flushing Meadows comes four weeks after Williams tearfully retired with a back injury against Andreescu in the Rogers Cup final in Toronto.
Andreescu and Bencic were both competing in their first major semi-final, with the Canadian becoming the first teenager to play in a US Open last-four match since 2009.
Bencic made the running in the opening set but was undone as Andreescu saved all six break points created by the Swiss.
Andreescu raced into a 5-0 lead in the first-set tie-break, and despite Bencic attempting a comeback, she made her lead count as her visibly frustrated opponent came to rue her missed opportunities.
Perhaps it was the spur that Bencic – who reached the quarter-finals in New York as a 17-year-old in 2014 – needed as she replied in stunning fashion, quickly going a double break up, and despite having her own serve broken, immediately broke again to extend her lead to 5-2.
But Andreescu refused to go away and won the next five games, breaking Andreescu once more on her third match point to book her place in the final.
“I think it’s just all the hard work I’ve put in through the years,” she said. “If someone told me a year ago I would be in the US Open final this year, I’d tell them they were crazy.
“It’s just surreal. I really don’t know what to say. It’s a dream come true playing against Serena in the final of the US Open. It’s crazy.”
Andreescu may not wish to dwell for too long on the highlights of Williams’ semi-final performance.
The power could be taken for granted, but perhaps not the quality of the angles she produced and her movement around the court.
The stakes rise enormously in a Grand Slam final, and Williams has lost her previous three, but in terms of preparation and confidence-building this was extremely handy.
Not that Andreescu has much to worry about, as the 19-year-old has won her past 22 completed matches, either side of a shoulder injury.
No wonder she never knows when she is beaten. Bencic made the running in both sets, but still ended up losing them.