Victoria Azarenka stunned Serena Williams 1-6 6-3 6-3 in the semi-finals of the U.S. Open on Thursday, denying the American the chance of winning a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title on home soil this year.
Azarenka will play Japan’s Naomi Osaka on Saturday in her third final at Flushing Meadows, having lost the previous two to Williams in 2012 and 2013.
Azarenka said her mental game had been crucial in beating the 38-year-old Williams, who needed a medical timeout to have her left ankle re-taped in the third set due to Achilles trouble.
“I have been working on finding a calm mind and keep the body going,” the Belarusian said in an on-court interview.
“She dug me in a big hole in the first set. I needed to find energy to climb out of the hole and it wasn’t easy.”
Williams, who has been stuck on 23 Grand Slam titles since winning the 2017 Australian Open, said the defeat was “obviously disappointing”.
“At the same time … I did what I could today,” she added.
“I feel like other times I’ve been close and I could have done better. Today I felt like I gave a lot.”