Karolina Pliskova claimed it was harder to beat Venus Williams than it was to stun Serena Williams to make the US Open final on Thursday.
The 10th seeded Czech clinched a famous 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) semi-final win to reach her first Grand Slam final, ending Serena’s hopes of winning a record 23rd major and knocking the American off the top of the world rankings as a result.
The 24-year-old Pliskova also became just the fourth player to beat both Williams sisters at the same Slam after Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters and Martina Hingis.
But she believes she laid the foundations for her shock semi-final victory by saving a match point in her gruelling three-set win over Venus in the fourth round.
“To beat Serena, she’s world No. 1, so it’s always tough to beat someone like this. She’s never giving up. Even if she’s losing, not playing her best, it’s always tough to beat girls like this,” said Pliskova.
“But I would say it was a little bit tougher to play Venus because obviously I was match point down and she was serving much better than Serena was tonight.
“Even my game I think was a little bit better against Venus. Everyone is gonna say it’s amazing win tonight. But both matches were very good.”
Pliskova, the first Czech woman in the US Open final since Helena Sukova in 1994, will face new world number one Angelique Kerber in Saturday’s final.
She defeated the German left-hander in the Cincinnati final on the eve of the US Open.
The 6ft 1in (1.86m) Monte Carlo-based Czech had never got beyond the third round of a Grand Slam in 17 prior attempts before coming to New York.
But she was one of the tour’s in-form players, going into the semi-final after 10 successive wins.
She also said she was unaware that Williams was carrying a knee injury.
Williams’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou told reporters that had the American not been hobbled, she probably would have won in straight sets.
“It’s just not my business,” she said. “I’m concentrating on myself and not on them. It would be not be a good thing if I just kept on looking at her to see if she’s injured or not.”
Pliskova wasn’t under too much pressure ahead of her showdown with Williams, waking in her hotel at 1pm, skipping breakfast and heading straight to lunch.
Then for supper, she feasted on the 34-year-old American, ignoring the 22,000 voices inside the Arthur Ashe Stadium willing Serena on to history.
“There is not more than to beat both sisters in one tournament in New York. I’m really excited about those two wins,” she said.
“For the crowd, it’s probably not the best that I beat both of them in their country, but for me it’s really something special.”