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2 Female Italian Players Advance At The U.S. Open

Italian player Flavia Pennetta after beating Petra Kvitova, of the Czech Republic, in a quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open on Wednesday at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
David Goldman
Italian player Flavia Pennetta after beating Petra Kvitova, of the Czech Republic, in a quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open on Wednesday at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Yes, Serena Williams' quest for the tennis Grand Slam is exciting. No one has won all four major tournaments in the same calendar year since Steffi Graf did it in 1988. And now that Williams is in the semifinals at the U.S. Open, she's only two wins away from the rare feat.

But for those who hunger for some ABS news (Anything But Serena) from New York ...

There are two Italian players in the women's semis — reportedly the first time in the Open era that two women from Italy made it that far in the same major tournament.

(That era began in 1968, when pros were allowed to compete in the majors.)

Wednesday at Flushing Meadows, Flavia Pennetta came back from a set down and beat fifth-seeded Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon singles champion. The final score was 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Pennetta did a better job of dealing with the energy-sapping heat, since Kvitova has been battling mono since the summer. And Pennetta also overcame the difficult afternoon shadows on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court, which she called "a disaster."

With the win, she reached her second U.S. Open semifinal in the last three years.

A day earlier, countrywoman Roberta Vinci also took three sets to beat Kristina Mladenovic and qualify for her first major tournament singles semifinal. That's the good news. The bad? She'll be playing Serena Williams.

The presence of two Italians in the semis is more than coincidence, according to Pennetta.

"We [Italian players] did a lot of good things in the last 10 years," she said after beating Kvitova. "I start in 2009 with a top 10 [ranking], and then Francesca [Schiavone] won Roland Garros [the French Open in 2010] and Sara [Errani, World No. 16 and Italy's top player] come. Everyone was pushing the other one and I think it was really important for us to have someone before us, to try to catch [up] all the time."

Pennetta will play No. 2 seed Simona Halep of Romania in the one semifinal Thursday. As far as the other matchup, Pennetta has some advice for Vinci against the Williams Grand Slam express. "You just have to go on court and try ... EVERYTHING," Penetta says, dramatically pausing before the last word. "She [Vinci] has to believe she can make it. Because if you go on the court and you are not that sure or you're thinking, it's done, I'm OK like this ... it's gonna be bad."

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Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on
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