Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu denied Serena Williams a historic US Open victory in a stunning upset at Flushing Meadows.
Williams was widely expected to brush aside 19-year-old Andreescu, playing in her first grand slam final, to bring up her record-equalling 24th major title.
But, for the fourth time of asking since she returned to the sport after giving birth, Williams fell at the final hurdle, Andreescu shocking a packed and partisan Arthur Ashe Stadium with a 6-3, 7-5 win.
Williams had lost acrimoniously at the same stage here last year to Naomi Osaka, as well as in the last two Wimbledon finals, as she desperately attempts to match Margaret Court’s all-time record.
The American’s footwork, and her first serve, deserted her for most of the match until, at 5-1 down in the second set and facing championship point, she mounted an unlikely comeback.
But Andreescu, who was not even born when Williams won her first US Open title in 1999, stood up to her illustrious opponent and held her nerve for a famous win.
The youngster has enjoyed a rapid rise, climbing from 208 in the world this time last year, when she lost in qualifying, to a projected place in the top five.
Andreescu is now the first Canadian grand slam champion and the first woman to win here on their main draw debut.
With her close friend Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, watching with her mother, husband and coach, Williams began well enough with an ace, but successive double faults at deuce gave Andreescu a break in the opening game.
A fierce exchange of volleys at the net was won by Williams and seemed to wake her up as she got on the board for 2-1.
But, by the time the score reached 4-2, Andreescu was the one cranking up the pressure and, as one winner flashed past, Williams turned to her box, swinging her racket in frustration.
Williams somehow survived five break points and in the next game forced one of her own.
Andreescu wriggled out of that with an ace and then promptly broke to close out the opening set before racing into a 2-0 lead in the second.
Williams got back on serve, though, needing four break points and a lucky net chord to finally lay a glove on her opponent.
Even that did not faze Andreescu, who pounced on more misfiring serves and broke straight back.
Leading 5-1 and with the finishing line in sight Adreescu understandably tightened, Williams saving a championship point before twice breaking back as the crowd volume increased to ear-splitting levels.
At 5-5 Andreescu managed a gutsy hold and then brought up two more championship points, seizing her chance with the second of them, a clubbing forehand winner for a remarkable victory.
Andreescu said: “It’s so hard to explain, but I’m just beyond grateful and truly blessed.
“I’ve worked hard. This year has been a dream come true and to play here on this stage with Serena, a true legend of the sport, is amazing.
“Oh man, it wasn’t easy. I tried to prepare my best and tried not to focus on who I’m playing. It’s easy to say but I’m really proud with how I dealt with everything.
“Obviously it was expected for Serena to fight back, that’s why she’s a true champion. I tried to block everything out. That last game was not easy.”
Williams at least showed she has lost none of her fighting spirit in that ultimately unsuccessful comeback.
She said: “I was just fighting at that point, trying to stay out there a little bit longer, and the fans started cheering so hard it made me play a bit better and fight a bit harder.
“Bianca played an unbelievable match. I’m so proud and happy for you. If anyone else could win this tournament – outside of Venus – then I’m happy it’s Bianca.”
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The world number two led 4-0 in the first set and 5-1 in the second, but Argentinian 20th seed Schwartzman came back to level both.
Nadal’s forehand seemed to desert him at times and he required treatment on his left forearm, a worry given that injuries have already accounted for, or contributed to, the demise of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
As the last of the ‘big three’ still standing, Nadal knows he has a golden opportunity to take a huge step towards overhauling Federer’s record of 20 grand slam titles.
He will be one behind the Swiss great, and three clear of Djokovic, if he completes the job here on Sunday.
And while at 38, Federer’s chances of adding to his tally are surely waning, the 33-year-old Nadal, fitness permitting, will almost inevitably collect a 13th French Open title next year.
When Nadal raced two breaks ahead in the opening set, he could hardly have imagined it would take the best part of an hour to claim it. And the pattern was repeated in the second.
Nevertheless, Nadal wrapped up 6-4 7-5 6-2 victory to set up a semi-final against Italian 24th seed Matteo Berrettini.
“It was straight sets but a big challenge,” Nadal said. “To see myself in the situation to lose both breaks in a row was tough.
“But I’m super happy with the way I accepted the challenge. Here I am, semi-finals, it means everything to me.
“Physically I’m fine. Today was a heavy day, big humidity, and I sweat a lot. I had some big moments at the end of the second set and beginning of the third, but the last few games I felt good again.
“Berrettini? I saw him play. He has big serves, big forehands, and is super confident. He makes big steps forward every week so it will be a big challenge. But now is the moment to keep going.”
Earlier 23-year-old Berrettini beat 13th seed Gael Monfils in the match of the tournament so far, finally sealing victory in a fifth-set tiebreak, 3-6 6-3 6-2 3-6 7-6 (5).
Berrettini needed five match points to fall over the line, having double-faulted with his first at 5-3 in the fifth.
It became a mental battle with an exhausted Monfils also double-faulting time after time at the climax.
His fifth double fault, in the tiebreaker, gave Berrettini two serves to win it, but Monfils passed him to haul one mini-break back, and the Italian netted the second.
But Berrettini came out on top in a brutal rally to bring up two more match points.
He was aced with the first, but when Monfils hit a service return long, Berrettini dropped to the floor on the baseline in disbelief.
Berrettini said: “Right now I can’t remember any points, just the match point – and the double fault!
“When I was playing I was thinking it was one of the best matches I had ever seen. I was playing, but I was watching, too. I’m really happy.”
Johanna Konta insists she is capable of winning a grand slam title as long as she keeps giving herself the chance.
The British number one has enjoyed a fine season in the majors, with a semi-final at the French Open followed by a quarter-final at Wimbledon, and culminating in a first appearance in the last eight at the US Open.
However, that run at Flushing Meadows was ended by Elina Svitolina, the fifth seed, 6-4, 6-4 on Arthur Ashe.
Konta was attempting to become the first British woman to reach the semi-finals in New York since Jo Durie in 1983.
But she fell short against a familiar foe, Svitolina extending her 100 per cent record against Konta to five matches.
“I do feel that was the probably the best I felt her play against me. She played so well, to be honest,” said Konta.
“Actually, I didn’t play badly at all. I actually felt like I was doing a lot of good things out there, a lot of the right things.
“She just made me play that extra ball. It’s frustrating. You know, I would have loved to have come through that and come through a challenge like her, but I guess it will just have to be next time.
“I definitely think it’s just the more opportunities I give myself like this, the more chances I have of going a step further and even more steps further.
“I don’t have any regrets or any hindsight in what I did before or during the match. I think I did a lot of good things.
“I think I can definitely still get better and better, especially against an opponent like her. I can take a lot of good things from this still.”
Konta had been streets ahead of the rest of the field with the amount of winners she has hit this tournament and she had another 24 here.
But that was offset by an unforced error count of 35, compared to just 13 from the metronomic Svitolina.
The Ukrainian made the first breakthrough in a hard-fought fifth game, Konta eventually succumbing with a backhand into the net.
Konta, with actor Tom Hiddleston watching from her box again, broke straight back. But she then promptly gave away break point with a misguided drop shot and Svitolina pounced again, arrowing a backhand into the corner.
Back came Konta with another break point, but it was repelled with an ace as Svitolina clinched the opening set.
Another unforced error handed Svitolina a break for 3-2 in the second as a Konta forehand drifted wide.
Konta immediately hit back for 3-3, a stunning drop shot flopping over the net just out of Svitolina’s reach, only to then find herself at 0-40 and, when a volley fell short, she was passed and broken once more.
Konta faced two match points on her own serve, and gamely saved both to force the ball back into Svitolina’s hand, but Svitolina converted number three.
For Konta, it is now a trip to Broadway to watch Hiddleston in ‘Betrayal’. For Svitonina, it is back-to-back major semi-final appearances, having also reached the last four at Wimbledon.
The 24-year-old said: “I think we were both striking the ball well, it was quite even. I was just taking one point at a time and trying to stay calm.
“I was relieved I could serve it out and just very happy with the way I handled the pressure.”