One year ago she couldn't play the US Open due to a wrist injury that eventually needed surgery. On Wednesday, Flavia Pennetta's fairytale run took her into the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career.
WTA Staff

NEW YORK, NY, USA - Flavia Pennetta was already putting together a sentimental run at her very best tournament - she had been to the quarterfinals of the US Open three times already - but on Wednesday it turned into a career-defining run, as the Italian made it to her first Grand Slam semifinal.

Having talked earlier in the week about her 2012 wrist surgery and that she's still grinding it out for the love of the sport, Pennetta was having a sentimental run through the draw, taking out a slew of seeds - No.4 seed Sara Errani, No.27 seed and former US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, No.21 seed Simona Halep - and reaching her fourth Grand Slam quarterfinal, all right here at the US Open.

But Pennetta took it to another level this time - the disappointments from last year, all the hard work and rehab, all the weeks of trying to find her game again - it all came together on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday, as she fired 23 winners to beat No.10 seed Roberta Vinci in 65 minutes, 64 61.

"At the end of the first set I knew I had to start being more aggressive, and my serve was working really well today, so that helped me a lot," Pennetta said about the fast finish. "And it was really difficult to play Roberta too - it's never easy to play against one of your best friends on the tour, of course.

"But this is life. I just played my tennis and everything worked out really well for me."

At last, and perhaps at the most unexpected time, Pennetta's very first Grand Slam semifinal. "The results after my injury haven't come that quickly - these are the first two weeks where I feel better and feel like myself again - but New York is special for me, and the crowd is special for me too.

"It's just amazing. I'm really happy. I cannot believe it."

One of the main points of discussion in Pennetta's post-match press conference was Pennetta and Vinci's history together, that they had come through the juniors and were now on the biggest stage.

"We were young when we met for the first time," Pennetta said. "I don't remember the day or the time, but we spent so much time together. In the beginning we weren't really friends but we became close because we spent so much time in the Italian Federation together. And we've been close ever since.

"I think the way she plays, she's so talented. You cannot see another player like her on the tour. She's Roberta, and she's the only one. She does different things - most of the players play really hard in just one way, but she makes so many different shots. She comes to the net and she has an unbelievable backhand, and she's completely different. And personally, she's a really positive girl. She always tries to find the light when you're seeing everything really dark. She's just a really good person."

Almost on cue, Vinci saw the positives from her run during her own post-match press conference.

"It was a special day for us, a great chance to go to the semifinals," Vinci said. "This time Flavia won, but I think that I'm happy too, about the way I'm playing and this whole tournament, of course.

"Last year I was in the quarterfinals too, and at the beginning of the tournament I had a lot of pressure, a lot of points to defend. This time I lost again in the quarterfinals, and I am a little bit sad, of course.

"But if you think about just the whole tournament, I'm happy."