19th January, 2014
Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta battled into her first-ever Australian Open quarter-final on Sunday by blasting ninth-seeded German Angelique Kerber off court in three sets.
The 31-year-old set up a last-eight clash against Chinese fourth seed Li Na with a hard-fought 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 win in one hour 52 minutes, and said her game as maturing with age.
“I’m a bit older now and starting to enjoy just playing tennis more and everything is good so far… The first set was one of the best I have ever played,” said the 28th seed.
It was the first set the Italian has dropped in her four matches so far, and she reached the last eight at Melbourne Park for the first time since making her tournament debut in 2003.
The victory also continues her sizzling form at Grand Slams, having made the semi-finals at the US Open last year.
“I missed last year so it is good to be back and I’m shaking,” she said, after seeing off Kerber’s courageous fightback.
“It was tough because she’s a really good fighter and you have to make three or four times the winner.
“But I think it was the only way to win today, to be aggressive and try to go for a winner, for a good shot.”
The Italian, who has nine career titles and has been on the tour since 1997, produced a flawless first set and looked en route to an easy ride, but Kerber refused to give up.
After being blitzed in the first set in just 24 minutes, the German finally got a break to boost her confidence on Pennetta’s opening service game of the second set.
But the Italian’s booming forehands were unstoppable and she broke straight back.
Kerber dug deep to save two break points in a crucial fourth game to stay alive at 2-2, and clawed her way back with a break in the next when Pennetta’s backhand hit the net.
But Kerber then lost her serve, and it went with serve until the German pounced again in the ninth, drilling a forehand down the line to get on top at 5-4 and she served for the set.
Kerber saved two break points on her opening serve in the third set then broke Pennetta, only for the Italian to bounce straight back to level at 2-2.
It was delicately poised until Pennetta forced a forehand error from her opponent to go 5-3 in front. But with the nerves kicking in, a double-fault from the Italian when she was serving for the match opened the door once again.
It was only delaying the inevitable and Pennetta, who missed last year’s tournament after being sidelined for six months with a right wrist injury that needed surgery, broke again for the win.