Wednesday, September 4, 2013

There's no Fighting Italian like an old Fighting Italian

If you thought Flavia Pennetta was done, think again. The 31-year-old Queen of Fed Cup has had a rough year, yes, but today, she did something she's never done before: She reached the semifinal of a major. Just over a year ago, Pennetta had surgery on her right wrist, and her comeback has been long and difficult.

It's not the first time Pennetta has been through something like this. Several years ago, the Italian star had to leave the tour for several months because of injury, and when she returned, she had little confidence, so she played in small tournaments until she felt like herself again. Pennetta then returned to "regular" tournament play and did well.

Today, she beat countrywoman Roberta Vinci, whose performance against Pennetta was not unlike Vinci's performance against doubles partner Sara Errani at last year's U.S. Open. Put another waya--Vinci didn't really put up much of a fight. Apparently, playing her Fed Cup teammates at a big event just doesn't agree with her.

After defeating 10th seed Vinci 6-4, 6-1, Pennetta thanked--among others--her former coach, which I thought was a nice touch.

Pennetta has a history of doing well at the U.S. Open, where she has reached the quarterfinals four times. In 2009, the Italian star reached the Open quarterfinals by defeating Vera Zvonareva in the round of 16. Pennetta saved six match points--five of them with winners.

In the semifinals, Pennetta will have her work cut out for her. She'll play 2nd seed Victoria Azarenka, who defeated Daniela Hantuchova in straight sets tonight. Hantuchova had multiple opportunities to stretch this to a three-setter, but the ball coming off of her racket just couldn't find the lines. Following Hantuchova's stunning performance in the round of 16, this was--sadly--kind of what you would expect to happen.

The doubles quarterfinals were somewhat of a massacre. 2nd seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina were taken out in straight sets by 8th seeds Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua, and 3rd seeds Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik lost to 5th seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. Serena and Venus Williams defeated 11th seeds Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Lucie Safarova, and 10th seeds Sania Mirza and Zheng Jie beat 4th seeds (and Wimbledon champions) Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai.

The Mladenovic watch is over. She and partner Daniel Nestor lost in the mixed doubles semifinals to Andrea Hlavackova and Max Mirnyi. In the other semifinal, Abigail Spears and Santiago Gonzalez defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues and Bruno Soares.

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