Simona Halep, of Romania, wipes sweat from her brow between points during a semifinal match against Flavia Pennetta, of Italy, at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Seth Wenig
September 11, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) Flavia Pennetta never made it past a Grand Slam quarterfinal throughout her 20s.

She finally reached her first major semi at the 2013 U.S. Open at age 31. Now 33 years young, in her 49th career Grand Slam tournament, Pennetta is into a title match.

She is the oldest woman since the Open era began in 1968 to become a first-time finalist.

Facing an opponent nearly a decade her junior, Pennetta routed second-seeded Simona Halep 6-1, 6-3 in 59 minutes at the U.S. Open on Friday.

Halep has been to a major final before, losing in last year's French Open. But she looked tense and drained Friday, with 23 unforced errors to 10 winners.

No such problems for the 26th-seeed Pennetta, who was calm, confident and controlled play. The Italian trailed 3-1 in the second set before winning 15 straight points to move within a game of victory. She broke Halep's serve to clinch the win, burying her face in her hands in stunned joy after hitting her 23rd winner on match point.

Both players won long three-set quarterfinals Wednesday, though Halep had a much tougher fourth-round match. Pennetta could have faced fourth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki in the third round, but the Dane was upset before then. She has now eliminated two top-five opponents in consecutive matches, though, after coming from behind to beat two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the quarters.

Pennetta is the lowest-ranked Grand Slam finalist since Serena Williams, coming back from a series of health problems, was 27th at the 2011 U.S. Open.

The top-ranked Williams, two wins from completing the first Grand Slam since 1988, was facing another 30-something Italian, Roberta Vinci, in the second semifinal Friday.

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