Serena stunned in US Open meltdown
Victoria Azarenka completed a mighty comeback to stun Serena Williams and qualify for the US Open final.
Williams cruised through the first set, dropping only one game before her longtime rival found her feet in the second and maintained the rage in the third, claiming a memorable 1-6 6-3 6-3 victory to reach her first major final in seven years.
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It's also the first time in her career Azarenka has beaten Williams across 11 meetings at grand slams as the American collapsed.
"It was mentally one of the strongest comebacks I've done. I had to get myself out of really big trouble," Azarenka told Amazon.
"At this stage of a grand slam against Serena, I know she's not going to give away anything. In that way it's one of the best matches I've played."
Azarenka held serve in the opening game of the final set before Williams went up 40-0 in her first service game of the decider. But the Belarusian fought back to deuce and disaster struck for Williams when she was forced to take an injury time-out.
Williams bent over for an extended period of time on the baseline after losing a point then hobbled to the side of the court for treatment on her left Achilles.
"Out of nowhere there's real concern in her camp," an ESPN commentator said.
There was no obvious moment where it looked like Williams did the damage, but she was clearly in pain.
Viewers speculated the 23-time major winner rolled her ankle, but she confirmed afterwards it was a problem with her Achilles.
"It wasn't my ankle. It was actually my Achilles. I overstretched and that was that," Williams said.
"I started really strong. Then she just kept fighting. She just changed and started playing better and better.
"Maybe I took a little too much off the gas pedal at some point."
Azarenka took advantage of Williams' ailment, breaking for a 2-0 lead in the final set before holding again for 3-0 - winning seven of the last eight games at that point.
Williams stayed in the hunt and dragged things back to 3-5 but Azarenka kept her cool and iced the match with consecutive aces.
Williams was seeking to join Aussie Margaret Court with a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles title but her slice of history will have to wait.
Azarenka will face Naomi Osaka in the final after the Japanese star beat Jennifer Brady in their semi-final.
Originally published as Serena stunned in US Open meltdown