Flavia Pennetta is ranked No. 27 in the world and has only one WTA title since 2010. She is 33 and the Italian reached her career high ranking of No. 10 in August 2009.
But she is back in the U.S. Open semifinals for the second time in three years. Some people just have that Flushing magic.
"If I could choose, I prefer the night session, of course, because I like the light," Pennetta says of Arthur Ashe Stadium primetime. "It's not a big problem for me playing with light."
Pennetta's semifinal match Thursday will under the lights. On Wednesday, she took down No. 5 seed Petra Kvitova with an 11 a.m. start. She lost the first set, 4-6, but rallied to win 6-4 and 6-2.
Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champ, was Pennetta's second former Grand Slam champion victim of the tournament. Pennetta swept past 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur in the fourth round. Pennetta has made seven career Grand Slam quarterfinals. Six of those have come in the last eight U.S. Opens, including Pennetta's 2013 semifinal appearance.
Maybe it is Pennetta's no-nonsense Italian swagger that makes her fit in with the New York crowds. She has no family in New York, but has some friends who own a restaurant. "I try to be home with the good food," she says with a smile.
On the court, Pennetta cannot figure out a reason other than her comfort under the lights.
"Everyone asks me the same question," she said Monday after beating Stosur. "There is no answer for this question. I like to play here. I like to play in this tournament. Maybe that's why I always play good. But there is nothing different or special."
She says that she cannot take New York City traffic for more than two weeks and is a "small city" person. She may be small town at heart, but she has thick skin to fend off Queens pressure.
Pennetta was the No. 11 seed last year when she lost to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. In 2013, unseeded Pennetta was held off by then-No. 2 Victoria Azarenka one match from the final. Pennetta lost to Dinara Safina, Williams and Angelique Kerber in her first three U.S. Open quarterfinal appearances.
When asked about her potential semifinal final foes, No. 20 Azarenka and No. 2 Simona Halep, who were in a third set during Pennetta's interview, Pennetta scoffed at the idea of revealing her secrets.
"I cannot tell you what I want to do against her or against the other one," Pennetta says when asked about Azarenka. "Maybe after the match we are going to talk about that."
Halep won, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
Despite her success, Pennetta is more relieved than stressed to be in her second U.S. Open semifinal.
"Before the tournament, I never thought I'd be so far in the tournament, so it's something special," she says. "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."
Pennetta's career has centered more around her doubles play. She reached a No. 1 ranking in doubles in February 2011 right after winning that year's Australian Open with Argentinian Gisela Dulko. Pennetta reached the U.S. Open doubles final in 2005 and 2014, the latter coming with five-time singles Grand Slam champion Martina Hingis.
Playing alongside Hingis, who Pennetta and new partner Sara Errani are set to duel in the women's doubles semifinals (Hingis now plays with Sania Mirza), did not change anything.
"She didn't tell me anything different than I already knew, but it was nice to play with her," Pennetta says.
Another Italian, unseeded Roberta Vinci, is also in the semifinals, facing Williams.
"When I saw Roberta in the locker [room], I hugged her and said she was amazing yesterday," Pennetta says. "I think this is really important for our country."
Italy has its bulldog back in the semifinals and Pennetta has the U.S. Open right where she wants it: Under the lights.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.