Serena Williams was beaten 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the semi-finals of the US Open by Victoria Azarenka on Thursday, denying her the chance of winning a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles title on home soil this year. Belarusian Azarenka will play Japan’s Naomi Osaka in her third final at Flushing Meadows on Saturday, having lost the previous two to Williams in 2012 and 2013. Six-time US Open champion Williams came out firing winners from all sides of the Arthur Ashe Stadium court and wrapped up the opening set in little more than half an hour. Azarenka, playing her first grand slam semi-final in seven years, raised her game in the second stanza and came out on top after some explosive exchanges of power-hitting. Novak Djokovic ‘fans’ court their own notoriety in vile abuse of blameless line judge The twice Australian Open champion kept up the pressure in the third as 38-year-old Williams struggled with an injury to her left ankle and sealed her place in the final with an ace. Earlier, two-time grand slam champion Osaka reached the final for the second time in her career with a thrilling 7-6 (7-1), 3-6, 6-3 victory over American hope Jennifer Brady. Brady arrived at her first grand slam semi-final without having dropped a set in New York and did not show any nerves but Osaka’s firepower allowed her to get by the 28th seed. Fourth seed Osaka, who won the first of two consecutive grand slam titles two years ago in New York, fired 35 winners and had 17 unforced errors as steady rain pounded on the roof of an otherwise quiet Arthur Ashe Stadium. Defending champion Barty to skip French Open over coronavirus fears; Williams unsure “I really love the atmosphere even though there’s sadly no people here,” Osaka said. “This court really suits me well.” Osaka set the tone early when she served out to love to open the match but she soon learned she had a battle on her hands as a composed Brady came out swinging in a contest that featured just six break-point opportunities. Japanese world number nine Osaka turned aside a break point while serving at 3-3 in the first stanza, held at love to get ahead 5-4 and then ran away in the tiebreak to close out a set in which she made just four unforced errors. Two top-five seeds down, one to go. pic.twitter.com/H3S8ip1g4e — US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 11, 2020 Brady, however, was not rattled and dropped only four points through her first four service games of the second set before securing the first break of the match for a 5-3 lead that she would consolidate to force a decider. From there it was all Osaka, who built on an early break to lead 4-1 before going on to seal the match as Brady, whose previous best grand slam performances came in 2017 when she reached the fourth round in Melbourne and New York. Osaka’s victory sends her back to the Flushing Meadows final, where in 2018 she beat Williams in a match that saw the American become involved in a series of confrontations with the chair umpire.