Angelique Kerber can add US Open champion to her new world number one ranking after she beat Karolina Pliskova in a nail-biting final at Flushing Meadows.
Kerber had to fight back from a break down in the final set in Arthur Ashe Stadium to win 6-3 4-6 6-4 and seal her second grand slam title this year.
Pliskova had knocked out Serena Williams in the semi-final in New York but could not manage a repeat against Kerber, who becomes the first German US Open champion since Steffi Graf in 1996.
As Pliskova blazed her final forehand long after two hours and eight minutes, Kerber fell on her back, cupped her hands over her mouth and held her arms aloft.
Pliskova walked around the net to embrace the victor, who then climbed up to the players’ box to hug her mother, team and coach, Torben Beltz.
The success caps a superb 12 months for Kerber, who clinched her first major title at the Australian Open in January, reached the Wimbledon final and won an Olympic silver medal.
Pliskova’s victory over Williams on Thursday also ensures the 28-year-old will become world number one on Monday and the oldest ever woman to take top spot for the first time.
An emotional Kerber said on court: “It’s just amazing. I won my second grand slam in one year.
“It’s the best year in my career and actually just incredible. Being world number one means a lot to me.
“When I was a kid I was always dreaming of being number one player in the world and winning grand slams.
“Today I won my second grand slam and I will be number one on Monday. All my dreams came true this year.”
Pliskova had never gone past the third round of a major tournament before but after beating Kerber to win the title in Cincinnati last month, she pushed her opponent all the way again.
The world number 11, who will rise to sixth, ultimately came up short in the decider, however, as Kerber’s experience and stamina proved decisive.
“I found out I can play my best tennis on the biggest stages against the top players,” Pliskova said.
Kerber takes home the cheque for 3.5million US dollars and becomes the first woman, other than Williams, to win two grand slams in a year since Justine Henin in 2007. Her rivalry with the American may be just beginning.
Pliskova looked like a bag of nerves early on as she opened up with a double fault before wafting a forehand volley wide when she had the whole court at her mercy.
Kerber was more composed and in the same game she seized the break when Pliskova’s drop-shot drifted wide.
Pliskova had been aggressive against Williams, shortening the rallies with aggression from the baseline but her groundshots were too cautious early on.
Kerber, meanwhile, was sticking to her strengths, chasing and counter-attacking, and when Pliskova double-faulted to hand her set point, she converted by hunting down a drop-shot and brilliantly chipping it into the corner.
At the start of the second, Pliskova squandered a break point with a sloppy forehand and as she sat down in her chair at the change-over, she swatted away a back-up racket in frustration.
The momentum had shifted, however, and when another chance arrived at 3-3 she took it.
Kerber should have put away a short forehand and Pliskova reacted, patting over a sumptuous lob that landed square on the line. Pliskova roared in celebration while Kerber was left applauding her racket.
Soon, Pliskova was fist pumping again as her serve, now firing on all cylinders, closed out the set, the first Kerber had lost all tournament.
Kerber was suddenly on the ropes, unable to find an answer to her opponent’s power, and when Pliskova broke again at the start of the third, the favourite was not clapping her racket but flinging it into the ground.
There was more drama to come, however, as a resilient Kerber regained her composure to break back for 3-3 and three games later, she landed the knock-out blow.
Under pressure, Pliskova’s serve finally failed her and when her final forehand sailed long, Kerber’s success was complete.