Think Pittsburgh area athletes, think Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Tony Dorsett and the universal Arnold Palmer.
Think Alison Riske? Unlikely.
Yet the unlikely Riske, a wild-card entry into the U.S. Open, is through to the fourth round after beating the ailing former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova Saturday, 6-3, 6-0.
"I hope I am doing Pittsburgh proud," Riske said. "But yeah, definitely, you think more of the Pittsburgh Steelers when you think of Pittsburgh, not exactly tennis. But I had a great junior career there. Pittsburgh is a special place."
This is the most special place of the 23-year-old Riske's career. Until this summer she had not won a single WTA main draw match on a hard courts, but now she is 5-3, has gone deeper into a Grand Slam than she has ever been and will meet Daniela Hantuchova next. Riske is building on a good showing on grass, getting to the semifinal of a tournament in Birmingham, England, then to the third round at Wimbledon.
Until this season Riske spent most of her career toiling in the nether regions of women's tennis, trying to find the elevator from the basement to the ground floor. And now she keeps pressing the "up" button.
"It was really emotional for me," she said after beating Kvitova, who was suffering from a virus. "It's just really cool because I feel like I'm playing within myself. I'm not doing anything crazy . . . I knew that with the tennis I was playing that things were going to start to come together. I just didn't know when."