SERENA WILLIAMS couldn’t believe it – and neither could Naomi Osaka.
The American superstar is now just one win away from equalling Aussie Margaret Court’s all-time Grand Slam winning record of 24 after emphatically dispatching Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 6-0 in just 66 minutes of their semi-final clash.
Williams, 36, is gunning for her first major since becoming a mum last September but standing in her way in the final on Saturday is a 20-year-old Japanese-American sensation who represents the future of women’s tennis.
Amazingly, Osaka, who saw off home star Madison Keys in straight sets, was just ONE when Williams won the first of her Grand Slam trophy haul.
Now she’s ready to halt her push for history at Flushing Meadows.
The 20th seed has everything at her disposal and saved an incredible 13 break points before snapping up her own chances.
Osaka is more than up for the challenge and said: « This is going to sound really bad… but I was just thinking – I really wanted to play Serena. Because she’s Serena. »
Williams, however, won’t be blown away by sentiment. There’s a steel and power to her game right now – fuelled by the arrival of beloved daughter Olympia.
She said: « It is really incredible, a year ago I was literally fighting for my life at the hospital after having the baby.
« Every day I step out on this court I am so grateful to have an opportunity to play this sport.
« So no matter what happens in any match, I already feel like I have already won. »
This will be Williams’ 31st major final and her ninth here in New York. She has won the US Open a record six times and will be the oldest champion ever if Osaka is defeated. It’s quite a record.
She added: « This is just the beginning. I’m only a few months in and really looking forward to the rest of the year and next year.
« I just feel like there’s a lot of growth still to go in my game, that’s actually the most exciting part.
« Even though I’m not a spring chicken, I still have a very, very bright future. »
Poor Sevastova may have seen off defending champ Sloane Stephens in the previous round but was no match for her opponent’s brute force.
She said: « When Serena is in front it’s tough to play. I tried on her games, but she served well – when somebody serves an ace at 123mph there’s not much you can do. »