Serena Williams was sensationally knocked out of the US Open on by unseeded Italian Roberta Vinci on Friday, going down 2-6 6-4 6-4 in the semi-finals.
The 32-year-old Vinci, ranked 43rd in the world, came back from a set down to stun Williams and the spectators at Flushing Meadows by pulling off a dramatic upset victory and setting up an all-Italian final with 33-year-old Flavia Pennetta, who earlier pulled off another shock win over second seed Simona Halep.
Williams was within sight of becoming the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988 to complete a calendar Grand Slam – winning all four majors in the same year – but she came up short on Friday.
It appeared to be business as usual when Williams raced through the first set, hitting back from an early lost break to convert three break points of her own.
But Vinci had only begun to fight. She earned three break points in the first game of the second set, and though she could not convert, she would earn three more in the fifth game, seizing the break on that occasion before holding serve for a 4-2 lead.
Williams had break points in the eighth and 10th games, but Vinci stood firm, fending them off before leveling the scores by clinching her first set point.
Williams drew first blood in the third set to take a 2-0 lead, but Vinci would regain the lost break immediately.
As the set progressed, the World No 1 started to unravel. She delivered two double faults in the seventh game to hand Vinci an opening, and the Italian took full advantage, breaking for a 4-2 lead.
Serving at 5-4 for the match, Vinci withstood the pressure and claimed the game to love to seal what is by far the biggest win of her career.
Prior to this year's US Open, the Italian's best showings at a Grand Slam were fourth round appearances at the French Open and Wimbledon.
"This is an incredible moment for me – amazing. It is like a dream. I'm in the final, I beat Serena," said an overjoyed Vinci after the match.
"So many things are in my mind. It was an incredible match, I lost the first set, and tried to stay in every point. I tried to stay focused and not think about Serena. It is the best moment of my life.
"When I woke up this morning I said to myself I have a semi-final, just enjoy it, don't think about Serena. I didn't expect to win – but I won!
"I said in my mind 'put the ball on the court and run. And don't think about Serena on the other side of the court'.
"I'm sorry for the American people, for Serena, the Grand Slam, everything…but today is my day.
"I'm proud of myself, my fight and my game. I'd like to say thank you to my coach and my team – grazie!
"I will enjoy this moment today – and then tomorrow we will see."
Asked how disappointed she was at missing out on the calendar Grand Slam, Williams told reporters: “I don’t want to talk about how disappointing it is for me. If you have any other questions, I’m open for that.”
On Vinci, she added: “I think she played literally out of her mind.”
Asked if the pressure got to her, she replied: “No, I told you guys I don’t feel pressure. I never felt pressure. I don’t know. I never felt that pressure to win here. I said that from the beginning.”