NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Italian flag was waving proudly over the U.S. Open on Wednesday after Flavia Pennetta toppled fifth seed Petra Kvitova to join compatriot Roberta Vinci in the Flushing Meadows semi-finals.
Defying the odds and rankings, 30-somethings Pennetta and Vinci put their names in the record books by becoming the first two Italian women in the Open Era to advance to the last four of a grand slam.
"I think this is really important for our country. We did a lot of good things in the last 10 years. We have me, Roberta (Vinci), Francesca (Schiavone), Sara (Errani), now Camila (Giorgi) is coming also," Pennetta told reporters.
"So I think it's really good for Italian tennis.
" I'm very proud. Of course yesterday when I saw Roberta in the locker, I mean, I hug her and I say -- I mean, she was amazing."
The dream of an All-Italian U.S. Open final, however, will require some special magic particularly from the 32-year-old Vinci, who has the daunting task of facing world number one and three-times defending U.S. Open champion Serena Williams.
The 33-year old Pennetta will take on second-seeded Romanian Simona Halep, who advanced with a three-set win over twice U.S. Open finalist Victoria Azarenka.
Pennetta has always been at home on the New York hardcourts having now advanced to the quarter-finals or beyond in six of her last seven visits to the National Tennis Center.
Aside from her U.S. Open resume there was little to hint of another semi-final appearance after what was an unimpressive run up to the year's final grand slam which included second-round exits in Toronto and Cincinnati and a first-round loss in New Haven.
"Before the tournament I never think to be so far in the tournament, so it's something special," Pennetta said. "It's something amazing for me in this moment.
"I didn't play really well in the last week and the feeling was not that good.
"I just come here and try to practise, try to find the good feeling with the ball, with the atmosphere here, and everything it seems working."
For just the third time in the Open Era, three of the four semi-finalists are aged 30 years or older.
"I mean, of course we are a little bit old for the age of tennis right now," said Pennetta. "But we are here. We still fight.
"We still enjoy what we did. I think this is important."
Editing by Ed Osmond