We are down to only four men and four women at the 2020 US Open and while there are some familiar names in the women’s draw, all the talk is in the men’s draw, where a new grand slam champion will be crowned for the first time since 2014.
The first men’s semi-final will see a guaranteed first-time grand slam finalist, with Pablo Carreno Busta to face off against Alexander Zverev, after both enjoyed contrasting quarter-final victories on Wednesday morning (AEST).
Carreno Busta, the beneficiary of Novak Djokovic’s default in the fourth round, was forced to slug it out against Canadian 12th seed Denis Shapovalov over the course of five sets, needing over four hours to win it.
Shapovalov, playing in his first major quarter-final, took the first set 6-3 before the Spaniard took the next two sets in tiebreaks to take a two-sets-to-one lead.
The Canadian then won the fourth set 6-0 to take the match to a deciding set, which 29-year-old Carreno Busta would win 6-3 to progress to his second grand slam semi-final, after also advancing this far at Flushing Meadows in 2017.
The final obstacle in his path to a first major final is fifth seed Zverev, who after losing the first set 6-1 to his opponent Borna Coric came back to win in four sets and thus advance to his second major semi-final this year, and first in New York.
Zverev is one of the few players who have been dubbed the next generation of male tennis players and after the elimination of Novak Djokovic from the tournament, as well as the absences of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, now might as well be his time.
The German will be facing off against Carreno Busta for the second time, after winning their only previous encounter in straight sets at the Miami Masters in 2018.
If Zverev reaches the final, he will become the first man from his country to reach a major final since Rainer Schuettler was humiliated by Andre Agassi in the championship match of the 2003 Australian Open.
Otherwise, Carreno Busta can become the first Spaniard other than Rafael Nadal to reach a major final since David Ferrer fell to the King of Clay in the final of the 2013 French Open.
Should he triumph, he will also become the first Spaniard other than Nadal to win a major title since Juan Carlos Ferrero saluted at Roland Garros in 2003.
The other men’s semi-final will pit two players who have been biding their time while the big three have been dominating on the grand slam stage, in Russian third seed Daniil Medvedev and Austrian second seed Dominic Thiem.
Both won their respective quarter-final matches in straight sets, with Medvedev needing to save a couple of set points in the first set to oust compatriot Andrey Rublev in straight sets, while Thiem dropped only seven games against Australian 21st seed Alex de Minaur.
The Russian will be attempting to return to the final after falling short in a five-set thriller against Rafael Nadal last year, while Thiem is aiming to reach his fourth major final, second on hard courts this year, and first at Flushing Meadows.
After losing to Nadal in a pair of French Open finals, and to Novak Djokovic in five sets in this year’s Australian Open final, the Austrian is well placed to break his major drought and become the first man born after the year 1990 to salute on tennis’ biggest stage.
The 27-year-old has dropped only one set on his way to his first US Open semi-final (dropping the third set against 2014 champion Marin Cilic in the third round) and has not been taken to more than ten games in his last five sets.
This year’s champion will break a streak of 63 straight major titles won by a man born in the 1980s, during which only eight different men (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Andy Murray, Marat Safin, Juan Martin del Potro, Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic) saluted in that period.
On the women’s side, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams will start favourites to set up what promises to be a tantalising sequel to their 2018 championship showdown.
Osaka comes up against the other American remaining in the draw – 28th seed Jennifer Brady, who will be playing in her first major semi-final. Both women defeated Shelby Rogers and Yulia Putintseva in their respective quarter-finals.
The Japanese star will also be playing in her first major semi-final since triumphing at last year’s Australian Open, having struggled with injuries and poor form in the intervention.
However, her form at Flushing Meadows this year suggests that she can add to the 2018 title she won by defeating Serena Williams in a rather controversial championship match.
Williams, on the other hand, will face off against fellow former world number one Victoria Azarenka in the other semi-final, reigniting a rivalry that was a must-watch in the first half of the last decade, before both women took time off to become mothers.
The American, who is again so close to equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam singles titles, came from a set down to defeat fellow mother and comeback queen Tsvetana Pironkova in three sets.
It is the 11th consecutive time she has reached the final four at Flushing Meadows, though she did miss the 2010 and 2017 tournaments due to a foot injury and pregnancy, respectively.
But standing in the way of her and a third consecutive US Open final is 31-year-old Azarenka, who thrashed Belgian Elise Mertens for the loss of just one game as she advanced to the last four at a major for the first time in seven years.
The two-time Australian Open champion has been the form player since the season resumption last month, winning five consecutive matches in Cincinnati and winning the title by default after Naomi Osaka withdrew before the championship match.
She has added another five victories to her winning streak, which all but guarantees she will be seeded at Roland Garros later this month.
History is against the Belarusian, who has never beaten Williams at a major. This includes two heartbreaking losses to the American in the 2012 and 2013 US Open finals, and a major collapse from 3-0 up in the final set in the quarter-finals of the 2010 Australian Open.
Azarenka has also never beaten Williams before the championship match at any tournament, with all four of her victories coming when it matters most, most recently in the final of Indian Wells in 2016.
It will also be the first time Azarenka and Williams come up against each other since the second round of the Indian Wells tournament last year.
Should Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams qualify for the championship match, it will be the sequel to what many regard as one of the most controversial tennis matches in recent history, the 2018 US Open final, when Osaka won in the backdrop of a major Williams meltdown.
All is set for what promises to be an intriguing end to the 2020 US Open, with a new men’s grand slam champion to be crowned while one of Osaka, Williams or Azarenka could add to their grand slam title tally.
Women’s semi-finals – to take place not before 7:00pm on Day 11 (9:00am AEST)  Jennifer Brady (USA) vs  Naomi Osaka (JPN)  Serena Williams (USA) vs Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
Men’s semi-finals – to take place on Day 12, times TBC  Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) vs  Alexander Zverev (GER)  Daniil Medvedev (RUS) vs  Dominic Thiem (AUT)