NEW YORK (AP) -- Flavia Pennetta made it to her first Grand Slam semifinal and climbed back to the top of Italy's competitive tennis ladder Wednesday, defeating 10th-seeded Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-1 in the U.S. Open quarterfinals.
Back in 2009, the 31-year-old Pennetta became the first Italian woman to crack the top 10. But she fell out of the spotlight in her country's tennis scene after the emergence of Vinci and Sara Errani, combined with a wrist injury that sidelined her during the end of last season.
Pennetta came into Flushing Meadows ranked 83rd, but will leave with victories over both of Italy's top players.
After her win over Vinci, a longtime friend and former doubles partner, the Italians met at the net and hugged. Vinci gave Pennetta a kiss on the cheek and told her, "Brava.''
"It's amazing,'' Pennetta said. "I am really happy. I cannot believe it. It was really tough today to play against Roberta. It's really difficult.''
This was Pennetta's fourth straight win over a seeded opponent - a stretch that began with a 6-3, 6-1 win over fourth-seeded Errani and also included a victory over No. 27 Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion.
Pennetta hasn't lost a set en route to the final four of the year's last major. Her next match will be against the winner of Wednesday's later quarterfinal between No. 2 Victoria Azarenka and Daniela Hantuchova.
Hantuchova and Vinci are both 30 and among the five thirtysomethings to reach the quarterfinals this year, matching the most in the Open era of Grand Slam tennis.
In the lead-up to the match, Vinci conceded it took her a long time to shed the label of doubles specialist and start believing she could beat players such as Pennetta, who she played doubles with on and off through the mid-2000s. Vinci broke through, but didn't have any answers for Pennetta in their latest meeting on a calm, sunny day in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
She attacked the net 34 times but won only 18 of those points. She finished with 14 winners and 28 unforced errors. Trailing 5-4 in the first, Vinci saved a pair of set points and had two chances to break, but couldn't convert either. Vinci attacked the net on the last two points of the set, but Pennetta hit shots Vinci couldn't handle both times to close things out.
The second set took only 24 minutes.
Men's quarterfinals scheduled for Wednesday were No. 4 David Ferrer vs. No. 8 Richard Gasquet and, at night, No. 2 Rafael Nadal against No. 19 Tommy Robredo, who defeated Roger Federer to deny fans of the first U.S. Open meeting between Nadal and Federer.
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