Li and Pennetta prove 30 is the new 20

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Thirty is the new 20 in women’s tennis and Li Na and Flavia Pennetta are proving it.


Born one day apart, Li and Pennetta will square off in an Australian Open quarter-final on Tuesday featuring a pair of popular 31-year-olds enjoying the best form of their life.

But while the fourth-ranked Li, a two-time Open runner-up and 2011 French Open champion, keeps on keeping on after blooming late, Pennetta is in uncharted territory – and how.

Six months out of the game at age 30 doesn’t usually help a player, but Pennetta has returned with a vengeance after a lengthy recovery from wrist surgery last year.

The Italian reached her maiden grand slam semi-final last September at the US Open in New York and has conjured up the same magic in Melbourne, charging into the last eight for the first time in 11 visits.

“It’s amazing,” Pennetta said.

“I think when you’re old, you’re starting to have different goals and try to enjoy a little bit more the life.

“Also, when I was young, for me it was really easy to stay few months out of my house, don’t see my parents.

“Now everything is starting to be difficult. I love to come back. I love to spend time with them most of the time.

“And so I’m here, and try to play my best tennis, try to enjoy every moment and my best.”

Pennetta and Li have split their four previous meetings and their next encounter represents a golden opportunity for whoever nudges ahead in their careers series.

With world No.1 Serena Williams usurped from the top of the draw, Li or Pennetta will instead face either 14th seed Ana Ivanovic or Canadian teenager Eugenie Bouchard for a place in Saturday night’s final.

Pennetta believes her history with Li will be irrelevant when they take to the court on Tuesday.

“We didn’t played in the last two or three years, so it’s going to be, I think, a completely different match,” she said.

“She is so good. Like she’s one of the best players. Backhand, unbelievable; forehand, really good; physically she’s strong.

“So it’s going to be really a good fight on the court.”

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