NEW YORK – Quick thoughts from the first all-Italian final in Grand Slam history as Flavia Pennetta beat Roberta Vinci, 7–6 (4), 6–2 to win the title.
• Brava to Pennetta your (unlikely) 2015 U.S. Open champion. The favorite to win the match played like it, overcoming some initial nerves, dictating points and then front-running after winning a tight first set. Pennetta is a terrific hard court player with a versatile set of skills—including a nice set of hands—all of which were on display this afternoon. At age 33, she likely has little tennis left. But what a soaring way to cap her career. Apart from the riches ($3.3 million) and haul of points, in the course of a wild weekend, she completely reframed her career—and then suddenly concluded it as well, announcing before the U.S. Open trophy ceremony that she will retire from tennis.
• Roberta Vinci not only pulled off the upset of the decade (ever?) in beating Serena Williams in the semifinals. But a day later she collected herself and played an admirable and unflustered final. So much that, while Vinci is likely pleased with her tournament overall, she—and here’s something we never thought we’d write—is likely disappointed that she didn’t win the title. Against a beatable opponent whose game she knew well. She had real chances. Her lack of finishing power did her in. But she was right in this and had a chance to steal the title.
• We usually talk about the virtue of a day off for the competitors. In this case, the fans could have used it. To their credit, both Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci, looked no worse for having played yesterday. Physical fatigue played little role in the outcome, testament to their fitness levels. But in the crowd (and, yes, the media precincts), there was still a sense of collective shock over the semifinal result, a lingering sense that, wait, this was the final? If a dollar were contributed each time a fan said, “I came expecting to see Serena,” the winners’ fee would have been covered.
• This is a few levels down from having to play against a sibling—the fate that, of course, befell Venus and Serena Williams the other night for the 27th time. But it’s never easy when a good friend is on the other side of the net, especially a friend you’ve known for a quarter-century, with whom you have played doubles and with whose game you have a deep familiarity. Some of the nervousness on display this afternoon owed to the fact that both Vinci and Pennetta were playing in their first major singles final. But some of it also is surely attributable to the friendship that passes between the two. There were a lot of nice moments, clapping for each other’s shots and warm embrace at the net. But you wonder how differently this might have played out had the finalist shared less familiarity.
• They sell souvenir cups here adorned with the names of all the previous U.S. Open champions. There are no asterisks, no explanations for kooky draws and stunning upsets. Right now, this women’s draw might be best known for the unaccountable defeat of Serena Williams, two matches from pulling off the Grand Slam. But with time, we’ll recall the 2015 U.S. Open foremost for champion Flavia Pennetta. Good for her.