Friday, September 2, 2011

Upset Special: Pennetta Outlasts Sharapova

Flavia Pennetta ended Maria Sharapova's 12-match winning streak in matches that have gone the distance, and just like that another crater-sized hole has opened up in the women's singles draw at the 2011 US Open.

Three of the top six seeds are already gone, and with No. 4 seed Victoria Azarenka playing Serena Williams tomorrow, we could have a 4th round that features only two of the top six seeds, and only three of the top eight.

Pennetta, who has now defeated Sharapova 2 consecutive times, will attempt to reach her third US Open quarterfinal when she plays Shuai Peng of China in the 4th round.

After a hard fought third set in front of a lively crowd on Arthur Ashe, Pennetta admitted that she was shaking due to nerves. If she had known about Sharapova's impressive third set winning streak, it could have been worse. "I didn't know that," said Pennetta, when Darren Cahill told her after that match that Maria had not lost a three-set match this year. "It's a good thing," she added.

Pennetta is 4-0 vs. Peng, including two three-setters at the US Open, but she's not taking anything for granted. "Tennis, it's something crazy. You have to be on the court until the last point."

In 2009, Pennetta reached a career-high ranking and became the first Italian woman to crack the WTA's top ten after a 15-match winning streak in the summer. She then rode the momentum to her memorable 4th round victory over Vera Zvonareva at the 2009 US Open. The New York crowds seemed to remember Pennetta well, and showed unwavering support for her throughout today's match.

A dejected Sharapova came into New York as one of the players with the best chance to win the title, after reaching the Wimbledon final and returning to the top 5 for the first time since shoulder surgery temporarily derailed her career in 2009.

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