New York has seen its fair share of Italian-American heroes with Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio, Al Pacino, Phil Rizzuto, Mike Piazza, Fiorello LaGuardia and Rudy Giuliani.
Now it hosts an all-Italian women's final Saturday at the U.S. Open between Roberta Vinci and No. 26 Flavia Pennetta.
"It's an incredible moment," said Vinci, who upset No. 1 Serena Williams in the semifinals. "One Italian will win for sure."
Francesca Schiavone won Italy's first women's major title at the 2010 French Open. On the men's side, Italy has had two champions at the French: Nicola Pietrangeli (1959,1960) and Adriana Panatta (1976).
Vinci, 32, and Pennetta, 33, are unlikely finalists.
Vinci appeared destined for a semifinal exit Friday. Williams came in with 58 wins in her past 60 matches, four consecutive majors and three consecutive U.S. Open titles. Williams won the first set in front of her home country crowd, but Vinci, who was booked to leave on a Saturday flight, played with nothing to lose.
Instead, Vinci won 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
"I think it's the best moment of my life," she said after the match.
Pennetta was "very close" to retirement after a 2012 wrist injury required surgery and knocked her out of two Grand Slams and the top 50. Even in August, Pennetta saw her career moving downward.
"It's amazing because 20 days ago, my physio asked me if I think I can win a Grand Slam or be in a final of a Grand Slam," she says. "I say 'no."
Pennetta rolled past No. 2 Simona Halep, 6-1, 6-3 on Friday. Two days earlier, she had upset No. 5 Petra Kvitova 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. After that match, Pennetta revealed her confidence was low before arriving in New York.
"I never thought I'd be so far in the tournament, so it's something special," she 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 practice, try to find the good feeling with the ball, with the atmosphere here, and everything seems to be working."
Vinci's first Grand Slam was at the U.S. Open in 2001. Until this week, her best finishes at Grand Slams were quarterfinal appearances at the 2012 and 2013 U.S. Opens.
Pennetta made her first U.S. Open draw in 2003. She entered this tournament with six major quarterfinal appearances, including one semifinal berth. Five of those quarterfinals were in Flushing, one carrying the semifinal appearance in 2013. An unranked Pennetta beat then-No. 10 Vinci in the quarterfinals that year.
On Friday, Pennetta had faith in her fellow Italian. At the podium after Williams took the first set from Vinci, Pennetta said, "You never know. They are still fighting and they are still playing.
Vinci and Pennetta entered 93 combined majors before the U.S. Open. Neither had reached a final and in Pennetta's one semifinal match, she was taken down in straight sets by Victoria Azarenka. These are two players who were just happy to be working the WTA Tour.
"I didn't have a goal so high," Pennetta says. "I have to be honest. I always was thinking I would play Rome (Italian Open) because when I was really young, every year, my mom and my dad would bring me to see the tournament.
"I always want to play with [Monica] Seles or [Jennifer] Capriati because I loved to watch [them]. I buy all the stuff like dresses of Seles, the Steffi [Graf] racquet. I look at them like amazing players, amazing people. My goal was to play Rome and be a good Italian player. Not good in the world, but in Italy."
At least Pennetta had reason to believe she could beat unproven Halep on Friday. Vinci was up against a 21-time Grand Slam champion and six-time U.S. Open champion. She had never taken a set off Williams in four tries.
"I can maybe touch the sky with my finger," Vinci said. "If yesterday, you told me, tomorrow you can win against Serena, I say, 'Come on.'
"I'm 32, almost at the end of my career and then I make my first U.S. Open final in a Grand Slam. I didn't expect this."
It happened. For both players. On Friday, Italy took down the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world with two thirty-somethings who have spent the majority of their careers filling out draw sheets. A nation known for its clay court presence has two journeywomen, known more for doubles than singles, in a hard court final.
"It's going to be nice for everyone," Pennetta says. "It doesn't matter who is going to win. It's going to be a big thing. Of course you want to win, but you are going to hug her if she wins."
Asked for the Italian word to portray Friday's events, Vinci answers, Indescrivibile, which translates to indescribable.
Back in Rome, the celebration is just beginning for the crowning of the campione.
Start spreading the news.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.