New York: Life-long friends Roberta Vinci and Flavia Pennetta set-up an all-Italian US Open quarter-final on Monday with a first-time spot in a Grand Slam semi-final at stake for both women.
Vinci, the 10th seed, beat compatriot and qualifier Camila Giorgi 6-4, 6-2 to reach the last-eight for a second successive year while unseeded Pennetta, now at 83 in the world, made then quarter-finals for a fourth time with a 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) win over Romanian 21st seed Simona Halep. (Also see: Day 8 at US Open, in pics)
It was hard luck on Halep, who came into the tournament having won four titles on the tour this year and was hoping to be the first Romanian in the quarter-finals since Irina Spirlea in 1997.
She was serving at 5-4 in the second set with a set point when torrential rain caused a suspension of play for more than four hours.
When they returned to the Louis Armstrong Stadium court, Halep's composure was shattered and Pennetta hit back before racing through the tie-breaker for victory.
"It will be tough for both of us in the quarter-final as Roberta and I have been friends since we were eight," said former world number 10 Pennetta.
Vinci recovered from 1-4 down in the first set to race away with 11 of the next 13 games to beat world number 136 Giorgi, who had stunned former number one Caroline Wozniacki in the third round.
Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova, who last made the quarter-finals in 2002, saw off American wildcard Alison Riske 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 on the back of 15 aces and 46 winners.
The second set had been poised at 4-4 when they went off for rain.
"The rain didn't make it easier on both of us but I'm glad to be into the quarter-finals," said Hantuchova, whose best Grand Slam performance was a run to the Australian Open semi-finals in 2008.
"In every match I'm giving my heart into it. It might not be the best tennis but I'm trying my best."
The 30-year-old Hantuchova, now down at 48 in the world after being as high as five in 2002, will face either world number two Victoria Azarenka or Serbian 13th seed Ana Ivanovic for a place in the semi-finals.
That match was pushed back to Tuesday as more than 30 matches were wiped off the program due to the rain.
Vinci, Pennetta and Hantuchova were three of five women over 30 to have make the last 16 this year.
"Camila played so flat but I served really well and won lots of points that way," said Vinci, who completed business just before the deluge hit New York.
She was helped by seeing Giorgi's game completely fall to pieces on the Grandstand court as the 21-year-old hit seven double faults and 35 unforced errors.
"Camila is a great player and had nothing to lose after winning three matches in qualifying and three in the main draw. She is one for the future.
"I had lots of points to defend so I am happy to get to the quarter-finals again," added Vinci, who will make the world top 10 if she wins her next match.
Despite defeat, Giorgi, who missed the entire hardcourt season in the run-up to the US Open with a shoulder injury, was content with her performances in New York, which will guarantee a return to the world top 100.
"It wasn't my day. I didn't play good," she said. "It was a great week coming back from two months without playing and I played a really good level."