Justine Henin-Hardenne scrambled to win a thrilling US Open semifinal 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4) past midnight Friday after Jennifer Capriati twice served for the match.
By the time Henin-Hardenne emerged victorious, she gave herself 19 1/2 hours to recover to meet fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters in their first US Open final on Saturday.
Each player won 127 points in the incredibly close match.
"I gave everything I had," Henin-Hardenne said. "I was cramping. Serving was very hard. I did my best. I could have lost this match. I am very happy."
"It's very late. I need a good sleep."
After leaving the court, Henin-Hardenne was given IV fluids to treat dehydration that caused cramping her left leg, pain that had her doubling over between points in the third set. Lying on a table in the trainer's room, she told a pool reporter it was "a big mistake" not asking for medical treatment during the match. The WTA Tour said Henin-Hardenne's health will be evaluated Saturday.
Capriati, who also suffered from cramps in the match, was clearly disappointed with the result.
"When I came off the court, I felt the whole world was coming down on me, and that my heart was being ripped out," Capriati said. "It hurts."
No. 1-ranked Clijsters dominated dispirited former champion Lindsay Davenport 6-2, 6-3 in the first semifinal.
The championship match will be a rematch of the French Open final, which Henin-Hardenne won, but it's hard to imagine it will provide the theater and shotmaking that Henin-Hardenne and Capriati produced.
There was the stab lob Capriati came up with to thwart a smash and set up a winner that put her a point away from winning the first set. There was the crosscourt backhand passing shot from an impossible angle that Henin-Hardenne used to break in the first game of the third set.
There was Capriati's running, across-her-body forehand winner down the line to set up a break point which she converted for a 3-1 edge in the deciding set.
And, in the end, there was the pretty forehand passing shot hit by second-seeded Henin-Hardenne which No. 6 Capriati could only put into the net on the final point.
Henin-Hardenne dropped to the ground and covered her head, before rising to go to the net. Capriati gave her a halfhearted handshake.
It could be tough for Capriati, a master of comebacks, to recover from this loss. She served for the match at 5-3 in the second set, and again at 5-3 in the third. Nine times, she was within two points of victory, but couldn't clinch it.
The women's final four was moved to Friday night for the first time because of a week full of rain which delayed the schedule. Arthur Ashe Stadium was about half-full, but the partisan fans did their best to spur on Capriati in a match which lasted 3 hours, 3 minutes.
It could have finished much earlier.
Henin-Hardenne broke to 5-4 in the second set on another spectacular point. She hit a short shot, and Capriati made a long run to get it, flicking up a desperation backhand lob that landed just inside the baseline. Henin-Hardenne somehow got to that, turned and hit a desperation lob of her own that also barely landed in. Switching directions to give chase with her back to the net, Capriati put her racket on the ball, but it landed out.