Pennetta’s shock resignation after friends battleNEW YORK - After winning her first Grand Slam title at age 33, Flavia Pennetta provided this U.S. Open with one last surprise.
After meeting her opponent, Roberta Vinci - the woman who famously knocked Serena Williams out of the tournament - at the net for a long hug, Pennetta let Vinci in on a little secret that would soon be shared with the world.
Pennetta, seeded 26th, told her she had decided about a month ago that she would be retiring after this season, and this would be her last appearance at Flushing Meadows.
In one of the unlikeliest major finals in women’s tennis history, Pennetta beat Vinci 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the U.S. Open final on Saturday, then revealed during the trophy ceremony that she is ready to hang up her racket. The two finalists are childhood friends from southern Italy, they were doubles partners and roommates as teens
“This is how I say goodbye to tennis,’’ Pennetta said. “I couldn’t think to finish in a better way.’’
Later, Pennetta said she plans to enter two tournaments in China over the next month, and the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore, if she qualifies.
But she definitely won’t be back at the U.S. Open.
“Why? Because sometimes it’s getting hard for me to compete. ... If you don’t fight every week in the same way I did today, it’s going to be, like bad. ... And I don’t have ... this power anymore, sometimes,’’ Pennetta explained. “I mean, with this, winning today, my life is perfect.’’
She is the oldest woman in the Open, which began in 1968, to become a Grand Slam champion for the first time. Vinci, who is 32, would have earned that distinction had she been able to follow her stunning upset of Williams in Friday’s semifinals with another victory.
This was the first major final for either participant, and the first time since WTA computer rankings were instituted in 1975 that both U.S. Open women’s finalists were ranked outside the top 20 (Vinci is 43rd).
Pennetta entered the tournament with only a 17-15 record this season. Vinci was 20-20 in 2015, and 40-43 in majors for her career.