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Viva Pennetta: Italian cruises into quarters

By Liz Kobak
Monday, September 1, 2014

WHAT HAPPENED: Kicking off Labor Day action in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday, No. 11 seed Flavia Pennetta beat the 29-seeded Australian Casey Dellacqua 7-5, 6-2 to advance to her second consecutive US Open quarterfinal. The Italian won seven consecutive games to break open the match and nine of the last 11 games. 

Their last meeting was seven years ago, where the 32-year-old Pennetta won in three tight sets.The flat-hitting southpaw Dellacqua, who reached the 2013 US Open doubles final, has enjoyed her best singles season yet and reached her career high ranking of No. 30 this summer. But once 2013 US Open semifinalist Pennetta got on a roll, Dellacqua, 29, could not dig herself out of a deep and error-ridden hole.

In an up-and-down opening set, both players had their chances. Pennetta had multiple break point opportunities in the opening game and 14 overall, but Dellacqua moved into the court better while Pennetta pulled off of the ball and shanked forehands. Dellacqua lead 5-4 before Pennetta then diversified her linear game, stepping into the court and also hitting topspin shots that took Dellacqua out of her strike zone. Strong serves into the Australian’s body earned Pennetta opening set in 50 minutes. 

“It’s not so easy to play but I was trying to play my best,” said Pennetta, who won her 10th overall title in Indian Wells this past spring and has now advanced to her fifth US Open quarterfinal. “Today my serve was working. I really love to play tennis. It’s my life.”

Feeling confident from her best-ever 2013 US Open run, Pennetta won almost 80 percent of first serve points and only made one unforced errors in the second set, compared with 35 overall from Dellacqua, who made eight double faults. The Italian kept her momentum on the upswing, winning seven consecutive games through steady play to rush to a 4-0 lead. To clinch her quarterfinal berth, Pennetta held at love when Dellacqua’s return sailed long.

WHAT IT MEANS: Also alive in women’s doubles with former world No. 1 Martina Hingis, Pennetta seeks redemption against likely quarterfinal opponent, two-time defending champion and No. 1 seed Serena Williams. The last American standing has never lost to Pennetta in five career meetings.

THE QUESTION: How can Pennetta challenge Serena, given the five-time US Open champion has that many wins over the Italy’s top-ranked female player?