World number one Novak Djokovic won a gruelling five-setter against Alexander Zverev to set up a US Open final against Daniil Medvedev and keep his bid for a calendar Grand Slam on track.
Russian second seed Medvedev had earlier kept alive his hopes of a first major title with a 6-4 7-5 6-2 win over Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Djokovic then recovered from falling a set behind to win 4-6 6-2 6-4 4-6 6-2.
He now has the chance to win a record 21st men’s Grand Slam singles title.
Victory over Medvedev on Sunday at Flushing Meadows would move Djokovic clear of the 20 majors won by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
History-chasing Djokovic would also become the first man to win all four majors in the same year since Rod Laver in 1969.
“There’s only one match left, all in, let’s do it. I’m going to put my heart and my soul and my body and my head into that one,” Djokovic said.
“I am going to treat the next match like it is the last match in my career.”
In fourth seed Zverev, Djokovic came up against a player who six weeks ago ended his hopes of another slice of history, the ‘Golden Slam’, by beating him at the Olympics.
The 34-year-old must have feared a repeat when he double-faulted to hand Zverev the chance to serve for the opening set. His opponent obliged despite double-faulting himself on his first set point.
Early in the second the roles were reversed, Zverev missing a straightforward forehand and following up with a double fault as Djokovic broke and then cantered through the set to level.
Zverev was frustrated at not being able to convert a break in the opening game of the third and again missed a chance at 2-2, only to later present Djokovic with three set points.
He saved two, the second in a remarkable 53-shot rally, but Djokovic smashed away the third at the net to take the lead and celebrated by rousing the crowd with his arms aloft.
Zverev again engineered break points at 1-1 in the fourth set and this time zipped a forehand winner beyond his opponent as he held on to that advantage to force a decider.
It was Djokovic who found the breakthrough in Zverev’s opening service game in the fifth set and the Serb’s enduring class showed through as he raced into a 5-0 lead.
Zverev, who at 24 is 10 years Djokovic’s junior, got on the board and then clawed back one break to keep the semi-final alive, much to the New York crowd’s delight.
The three-time US Open champion hit straight back to bring up match point on Zverev’s serve and sealed his place in the final when his opponent found the net after three hours and 33 minutes of tennis.
“Thank you, the atmosphere was amazing – the best atmosphere of the tournament so far,” Djokovic said.
“These are the moments we live for, the unique opportunities we dream of every day when we wake up and are trying to find the motivation to go out and do the same things over again.”
This absorbing match boasted a 53-shot rally and was watched in the Arthur Ashe Stadium by Rod Laver – the man whose achievement Djokovic will try to emulate on Sunday.
Not always at his best from the baseline, Djokovic qualified for a record-equalling 31st Grand Slam final with exceptional serving and trademark mental resilience.
He then promised to play Sunday’s final as if it were the final match of his career.
The world number one has spent five and a half hours longer on court than Medvedev thus far. A hot and humid climax is forecast for Sunday, and with the pressure of chasing history, the 28th and final hurdle could yet be the hardest to clear.
Medvedev will contest his third Grand Slam final on Sunday, having lost the 2019 final at Flushing Meadows to Rafael Nadal and the Australian Open final to Djokovic in February.
The 25-year-old, who has won titles on the hard courts in Marseille and Toronto this year, conceded his only set of the tournament during his four-set win over Dutch qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp in the previous round, during a largely trouble-free run to the final.
Medvedev ominously broke to love in the seventh game of the opening set against Auger-Aliassime, choosing his moment to apply pressure and put his 21-year-old opponent on the back foot.
The second set proved far trickier for the Russian, as Auger-Aliassime – contesting his first Grand Slam semi-final – clinched a second break-point opportunity before holding serve to lead 5-2.
The set – and a chance for the Canadian to level the match – unravelled from there.
Twice unable to convert at set point, Auger-Aliassime was punished by Medvedev, who broke back and rattled through four successive games to abruptly end his opponent’s momentum and take a two-set lead.
After an opening hold of serve in the third set, the 12th seed’s challenge capitulated as the world number two claimed another double break to cruise into a 5-1 advantage before wrapping up another commanding victory on serve.