American tennis star Serena Williams suffered a stunning upset in the U.S. Open semifinals in New York, falling just short of making tennis history.
The top-seeded Williams was on the brink of the single-season Grand Slam, having already won titles this year at the Australian Open, French Open and at Wimbledon.
But she could not overcome Italian tennis player Roberta Vinci on Friday, falling 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, New York.
The unseeded Vinci was a massive underdog to Williams heading into the match. But using an assortment of slices and net rushes, she frustrated Williams and kept her off-balance.
Williams hurt herself by committing 40 unforced errors, twice as many as Vinci, but posted 16 aces.
"Out of her mind"
"I thought she played the best tennis in her career,'' Williams said about Vinci. "She played, literally, out of her mind.''
Williams had been pushed to the limit before, with Friday's match marking her 12th three-setter in a Grand Slam event this season. This time, however, she could not pull it out. "I don't want to talk about how disappointed I am," she told reporters.
In a post-match interview on the court with ESPN, Vinci called her victory an "amazing moment" and the "best moment of my life." She also apologized to the crowd for ending Williams' Grand Slam sweep dream.
"Sorry for the American people, for Serena, for the Grand Slam and everything," she said. "Today is my day. Sorry guys."
Vinci had never before played in a Grand Slam semifinal and had never so much as taken a set from Williams, much less won, in four previous matchups.
She will now face another Italian, Flavia Pennetta, in the U.S. Open finals on Saturday. The 26th-seeded Pennetta beat second-seeded Romanian Simona Halep to reach the finals.
It will be the first all-Italian women's Grand Slam final in the Open Era. Pennetta leads her career rivalry with Vinci, 5-4.
Williams, a three-time defending U.S. Open champion, was bidding to become only the fourth woman to win all four majors in the same year.
No woman has achieved a single-season Grand Slam since German Steffi Graf in 1988. The last man to accomplish that feat was Australian Rod Laver in 1969.
The 33-year-old Williams, who was on a 33-match Grand Slam win streak and a 26-match U.S. Open win streak before losing to Vinci, is playing her best tennis at an age once thought impossible for such success. But she could not post the two more victories she needed to make tennis history.