Italy's Vinci, Pennetta on to US Open quarters
NEW YORK (AP) - Roberta Vinci will face a fellow Italian in the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the second straight year.
In a testament to the depth among Italy's women's tennis players, the 10th-seeded Vinci will also be taking on a countrywoman for the third straight round at this year's tournament. She and longtime friend Flavia Pennetta both won Monday.
"We try to motivate everyone,'' Pennetta said. "It's really nice because always we make a good result, almost always.''
On a day when experience trumped youth, three 30-something women beat opponents in their early 20s. Vinci defeated Camila Giorgi 6-4, 6-2 in 67 minutes. Moments later, rain started pouring down, stopping all matches at Flushing Meadows for 4 1/2 hours.
The delay couldn't have come at a better time for Pennetta, who returned to the court to seize momentum and clinch a 6-2, 7-6 (3) victory over 21st-seeded Simona Halep.
American wild card Alison Riske forced a third set against Daniela Hantuchova, but the Slovakian veteran pulled away for a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 victory.
Halep had set point on her serve, trying to send the match to the third, when the skies opened up to her dismay. Once they resumed play, Pennetta pounced on a second serve to set up a big forehand that erased the set point.
"After that I was very nervous and I lost the game - very fast,'' Halep said.
Pennetta won the next two points on short rallies to even the second set at 5-5.
Halep promptly broke again, but she couldn't serve out the set this time, either. Then the 31-year-old Pennetta dominated the tiebreaker against a disheartened Halep.
The 21-year-old Romanian was still thrilled to make her first career Grand Slam round of 16.
Pennetta is in the U.S. Open quarters for the fourth time. But this one is sweet, because she missed last year's tournament with a right wrist injury that explains why her ranking has slipped to 83rd.
"Was not easy, I can tell you,'' Pennetta said of coming back from surgery. "I cry a lot, yeah. But I love this sport.''
Vinci had never made a Grand Slam quarterfinal before this tournament a year ago, when she was 29. Now Vinci has done it in consecutive U.S. Open trips. She lost to another countrywoman, doubles partner Sara Errani, in the quarters in 2012.
"It's obvious that I'm not young. I'm 30. But it can be a strength, because I have a lot of experience,'' Vinci said. "Against a player like Camila, who is very young, it can be an advantage for me - and I think it was on the court today.''
Errani, the top-ranked Italian woman, was upset by Pennetta in the second round this year while seeded fourth. No matter, the country will still have a representative in the women's semifinals for the second straight time.
Before last year, that hadn't happened once in the Open era, which began in 1968.
Giorgi, a 136th-ranked qualifier, was trying to reach her first major quarterfinal at age 21. In her third-round upset of sixth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, she crushed the ball on point after point, with 46 winners and 45 unforced errors.
She jumped to a 4-1 lead in the first set Monday, but Vinci stayed poised and patient. Vinci, who had never faced the younger Italian before, started attacking her forehand, and Giorgi's mistakes mounted. She finished with 35 unforced errors to 20 winners.
"The problem wasn't the opponent,'' Giorgi said. "The problem is that I wasn't myself on court today.''
Vinci is one of only two players seeded in the top 10 left in her half of the draw, along with No. 2 Victoria Azarenka.
The 23-year-old Riske was 0-5 in Grand Slam matches heading into this summer. Then she made the third round at Wimbledon and the fourth at the U.S. Open.
Down a set and a break Monday, she couldn't get anything going against Hantuchova's serve.
"She hit the lines so many times, I was like, `All right, we're just going to go right to the next point because that was just too good,''' Riske said.
Riske didn't earn a break point until the 17th game, but she took advantage to even the second set at 4-4.
The rain came a point later, but it didn't cost Riske any momentum. She held at love after they resumed, then broke Hantuchova's serve at love at 6-5 to even the match.
But in the third set, the 30-year-old Hantuchova was in total control.
"I totally lost all focus and missed plenty of balls that I should make with my eyes closed,'' said the 81st-ranked Riske, who is now projected to crack the top 60.
"I've never been in a moment like this before,'' she added. "She is a seasoned player. She played ball today. I did all that I could for this moment, and that's all I could do.''
Ranked as high as No. 5 more than a decade ago, Hantuchova is down to 48th. She is back in the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the first time since 2002, her first Grand Slam quarters since the 2008 Australian Open.
She will face Azarenka or 13th-seeded Ana Ivanovic, whose match was postponed until Tuesday morning because of the rain.
"Just fighting like crazy, really leaving everything I've got on the court,'' Hantuchova said. "Really putting my heart into it because it means so much to me. Sometimes you keep trying, keep trying, and then you don't know why, but it just comes all together.''
AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.
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