FLAVIA Pennetta continued her remarkable US Open by defeating fellow Italian Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-1 to reach her first grand slam singles semi-final.
The 31-year-old had made the quarter-finals in New York three times before but was well off the radar before the tournament began.
Initially, Pennetta was not even ranked highly enough to get into the main draw but crept in after a withdrawal.
The world No 83 is a former top-ten player but missed this tournament last year and the following six months because of a wrist injury.
She struggled when she returned to the tour, winning just three matches in her first seven tournaments and dropped out of the top 100.
But a run to the semi-finals in Strasbourg in May as a qualifier showed her form was coming back and she reached the fourth round at Wimbledon.
Pennetta said: “From the first day of the tournament I never thought I would be here and be talking about the semi-finals.
“I didn’t play my best tennis in the last six months and I just tried to keep working and working the same way every day.
“I’m starting to feel more my forehand, my backhand. Everything is starting to feel more normal in the way it was before the injury.
“I’m playing really good tennis here. Every day is much better. Every day was tougher and I’ve adjusted, tried to use everything I have and take it to the court and play my best tennis.”
Pennetta had reached the last eight without dropping a set, beating fourth seed Sara Errani – another Italian – in the second round, former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in round three and in-form Simona Halep in the last 16.
She was always the dominant player again yesterday, her extra power giving her the edge over Vinci. The tenth seed had been the winner on Tuesday when the pair met in doubles but, after pulling back from 2-4 to 4-4, she lost her serve again and the set.
The second set was much more one-sided and Pennetta will meet either second seed Victoria Azarenka or Daniela Hantuchova, who played their quarter-final in the early hours of this morning, in the last four.
Pennetta and Vinci have known each other 20 years, and Pennetta admitted that made the match more difficult.
“I felt it a lot,” she said. “I think in the beginning we didn’t play good tennis. I was tight, she was tight also. When I won the first set I just relaxed a little bit and tried to play better. But the day was tough for both of us.”
Pennetta is aiming to become the first Italian to reach a singles final at Flushing Meadows.