New York: Venus Williams kept the American flag fluttering at the US Open when she beat French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 7-6, 6-4 to become the first player through to the semi-finals.
Williams, promoted to third seed this year after her sister and world number one Serena withdrew with an injury, provided a dazzling display that matched her sparkling pink dress to reach the last four for the eighth time in 12 years at New York.
It has been nine years since she won her second successive title at Flushing Meadows but her form over the past nine days has given rise to the belief that a third crown could be on the horizon.
Her win came immediately after the host-nation`s already slim prospects of winning the men`s title were extinguished when Sam Querrey lost a centre court thriller to Switzerland`s Stanislas Wawrinka.
The pair slugged it out for almost four and a half hours, putting the match programme hours behind, before Wawrinka, who upset Britain`s Andy Murray in the third round, prevailed 7-6, 6-7, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
"I left it all out there today and I didn`t get to the quarters," said an exhausted and deflated Querrey. "I`m bummed, but I did everything I could."
Wawrinka`s next opponent is Russian 12th seed Mikhail Youzhny, who slipped quietly through his section of the draw.
He earned his place in the last eight with a convincing 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 win over Tommy Robredo, one of five Spanish men left in the top half of the draw.
The remaining four, headed by Rafa Nadal, are all in the same quarter, ensuring Spain will be represented in the men`s semi-finals on Saturday.
Defending women`s champion Kim Clijsters was due to play Australia`s Samantha Stosur in the first of the two feature night matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium before Nadal squared off with countryman Feliciano Lopez.
Schiavone, who became the first Italian woman to win a grand slam singles title when she won at Paris in June, could not match the power of Williams but provided the former world number one with some awkward moments by mixing up her game in the windy conditions.
She came from 4-2 down to force a first set tiebreak then twice came from behind in the second set to get back to 5-4 when her serve let her down and Williams broke to wrap it up in straight sets.
"She played a great match," Williams said in a courtside interview. "It`s not easy to play in these conditions, it`s hard to know what decisions to make, but she played excellent."