NEW YORK, NY, USA - Sloane Stephens thrilled the home crowd by reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal since 2013, surviving a final set tiebreak against No.16 seed Anastasija Sevastova, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(4).
"It was incredible," Stephens said after the match. "I couldn't hear anything. It was so loud in there. But I think that's what tennis players play for.
"Obviously as an American, playing at your home slam, to have the crowd like that behind you, is incredible. I don't think there is any better feeling or better moment you'll get out of playing tennis."
In the main draw with the help of a protected ranking after missing nearly a year due to a foot injury, Stephens twice rallied from a break down in the deciding set to edge past the Latvian veteran, who was playing her second straight quarterfinal at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The American lost the first two matches of her comeback, but has been on a tear ever since, reaching back-to-back semifinals at Premier 5 level events at the Rogers Cup and the Western & Southern Open.
"If someone would have told me when I started at Wimbledon that I'd be in three semifinals back to back, I would have said they're crazy. Just happy to be playing really well and happy that my foot is good and I don't have any pain and my body is holding up."
Unseeded in Flushing Meadows, she upset 2015 finalist Roberta Vinci in the opening round and followed that up with a tense win over reigning BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global champion Dominika Cibulkova, where she also trailed by a service break in the third.
Playing her first match on Arthur Ashe Stadium of the tournament, Stephens raced out to a 5-2 lead following tense opening exchanges, but quickly fell behind by the same margin in the second set.
A point from earning a double break lead in the third, Sevastova struggled with nerves, shouting towards her supporters' box as her advantage slipped away. Though she gamely served to stay in the match on two occassions, she fell behind early in the ensuing tiebreak and Stephens took control from there.
"It was a close set," a relaxed Sevastova said after the match. "I think at 5-4 or 6-5 when I was serving, I was in control. There was not many nerves. But maybe before, in the beginning, I was a bit nervous, and also in the tiebreak, as well.
"But it's normal. I mean, it's the third set, you're playing for semifinals of US Open. I'm not a robot. Sorry."
The high-quality clash saw the pair hit a combined 56 winners in three sets and covered nearly four miles of distance running about the court before Stephens emerged victorious after nearly two and a half hours on court.
Awaiting the 24 in her second Grand Slam semifinal will be the winner of the highly-anticipated match-up between two-time US Open champion Venus Williams and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who will play the night match later today.
"Obviously making semifinals of a slam is a complete neutralizer. Anybody's game. I just have to focus on myself and, yeah, that's all I can really do."