US Open 2015 champion Flavia Pennetta and runner-up Roberta Vinci transformed the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows into the Italian Open of Queens, making history with unpredictable moments and brilliant personalities. 

By Richard Deitsch
September 12, 2015

NEW YORK – Damn, these Italians do things with style, don’t they?

After winning her first Grand Slam title at the tennis-old age of 33 years and 201 days, as unpredictable a result as two Italian women playing in the U.S. Open women’s final, Flavia Pennetta shocked the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium—which included Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi—by saying she was retiring from her sport at the end of the year.

“Before I started this tournament, like one month ago, I made a big decision in my life,” said Pennetta, who won the U.S. Open as the No. 23 seed, defeating countrywoman Roberta Vinci 7–6(4), 6–2 on Saturday. “This is how I would like to say goodbye to tennis. And this is the way I would like to say goodbye to tennis...I’m really happy. It’s what all the players want to do, going out with this kind of big trophy. So this one was my last match at the U.S. Open and I couldn’t think to finish a better way.”

The two players began play at 3:22 p.m. holding this distinction: They had the oldest combined age (66 years and 19 days) of any Grand Slam finalists in the Open era, topping Virginia Wade and Betty Stove (63 years, 11 months) at Wimbledon in 1977. Pennetta entered the match as a slight favorite given she had won five of their nine career matches, including a 2–0 record at the majors. She becomes just the second Italian woman to win a Grand Slam singles title after Francesca Schiavone at the 2010 French Open. It was just the sixth time in the Open Era (and first time at the U.S. Open) that two first-time finalists have faced off in a Grand Slam final .The last time it happened—Forza!—Schiavone defeated Sam Stosur.  

Pennetta said that she and Vinci have known each other since they were nine—they played against each other as 9-year-olds at a country club in Pennetta’s hometown of Brindisi—and they lived together in Rome as youngsters while training with the Italian Federation. The two won the 1999 French Open girls’ doubles title—both have major titles in women’s doubles—and after Pennetta’s win, they embraced at the net for about 20 seconds, perhaps the longest post-match embrace in Open history. Despite the loss, few will forget what Vinci did in Queens, recording the biggest upset in women's tennis history with her three-set win over Serena Williams.

Al Tielemans for Sports Illustrated

“Miracles can happen,” Vinci said. “ Because I beat Serena, miracle. [Laughter.] And then two Italian can reach the Grand Slam final. Also, a miracle… I love New York. Today, probably this is my last cheeseburger, and then tomorrow pasta, real pasta at home.”

(Vinci, for the record, is not retiring. “No, no, no, no,” she said. “Not yet. Almost.”)

Pennetta said she will play the rest of her schedule in 2015—she is scheduled to play at tournaments in Wuhan, China, and Beijing and could make the season-ending championships in Singapore—before putting down her racket for good.

“Sometimes we are more scared to take the decision because we don't know what going to do after, how is going to be the life after,” Pennetta said. “But I think it's going to be a pretty good life. I mean, I'm really proud of myself. I think I did everything that I expect. More. Much more.”

Brava, Flavia and Roberta. The Italian Open of Queens was one to remember.

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