Even Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci admitted that they didn't expect to advance to the women’s singles final this year, but they join an elite list in doing so.
World No. 43 Vinci and No. 26 seed Pennetta became the third- and fifth-lowest ranked women in the Open era, respectively, to reach the US Open final with their victories on Friday. The other seven women in the Open era to reach the US Open final while seeded outside the Top 10 have all won multiple Grand Slam titles in singles or doubles (or both), while five of them have also clinched Olympic medals.
Here’s how they got there and how they did in the final:
Wendy Turnbull (No. 12 seed, 1977): Known as “Rabbit” during her playing days for her foot speed, Turnbull dropped just three games against No. 3 seed Virginia Wade in the quarterfinals and then defeated No. 2 seed Martina Navratilova in the semifinals. She would lose to Chris Evert in the championship match but go on to reach two other Grand Slam singles finals and win four Grand Slam women’s doubles title; she also won a bronze medal in women's doubles at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
Pam Shriver (No. 16 seed, 1978): As a 16-year-old amateur, Shriver stunned the tennis world by defeating reigning Wimbledon champion Navratilova in the semifinals. She would lose to Evert in the final, but it was the start of a Hall of Fame career that led to 22 Grand Slam doubles title and a women’s doubles gold medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
Helena Sukova (No. 12 seed, 1993): Sukova was 4-25 against No. 4 seed Navratilova going into their fourth-round match but defeated her in straight sets; the Czech then shocked No. 2 seed Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the semifinals. She would lose to No. 1 seed Steffi Graf in the final, but it was an impressive effort for Sukova to reach her first Grand Slam final in nearly five years.
Venus Williams (Unseeded, 1997): Ranked No. 66, Williams announced herself to the tennis world by reaching the final in her first attempt and only her third Grand Slam appearance. Her controversial semifinal win over No. 11 seed Irina Spirlea is just as famous for “the bump” as it is for her prevailing in a third-set tiebreak. She would lose to No. 1 seed Martina Hingis in the final but go on to win the US Open women’s singles title twice and team up with sister Serena to win the doubles crown twice more.
Mary Pierce (No. 12 seed 2005): The always-popular French player recorded three consecutive Top 10 victories to reach her first US Open final at the age of 30. She ran out of gas in the final against No. 4 seed Kim Clijsters but received a standing ovation from the crowd afterward.
Kim Clijsters (Unseeded, 2009): Two years after her retirement and one year after the birth of her daughter, the 2005 US Open champion became the first wild card in tournament history to win the title. Competing in just the third tournament of her comeback, she defeated both Williams sisters along the way (No. 3 seed Venus in the fourth round and No. 2 seed Serena in the semifinals) before prevailing over No. 9 seed Caroline Wozniacki in the final. Clijsters would then successfully defend her title the following year.
Serena Williams (No. 28 seed, 2011): After missing nearly a year of competition due to a series of injuries and health scares, Williams’ low ranking was due to only returning to the tour in June. She picked up right where she left off, not losing a set on her way to the final and thumping world No. 1 Wozniacki, but her loss in the final to No. 9 seed Samantha Stosur remains, if by expectation more than seed, one of the biggest surprises in a Grand Slam final.