Former tennis champion Billie Jean King, left, sits with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi during the women's championship match between Italians Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in New York
Seth Wenig
September 13, 2015

ROME (AP) Italy should build a Mount Rushmore-like monument for U.S. Open finalists Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci.

That was the suggestion Sunday from the Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy's leading sports newspaper.

Under a front-page headline of ''We're the champions'' that also referred to Fabio Aru's exploits in the Spanish Vuelta cycling race, a Gazzetta editorial said:

''What we should build for Flavia and Roberta, the little but great tennis players for whom the world now envies us, is a monument with multiple faces but in place of the American presidents we should honor the Azzurri from this week.''

Pennetta's victory over Vinci in the first all-Italian Grand Slam final Saturday continued to top the headlines in Italy.

A member of the regional government in Puglia, the southern region where both players come from, suggested that Pennetta and Vinci be named world ambassadors for the area.

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi canceled his appointments and flew to New York to attend the final, sparking a wave of controversy back home.

Opposition lawmakers deemed the trip on a government plane a waste of money and said Renzi should have been addressing the country's problems instead.

''If it was football nobody would have said anything,'' Renzi responded in a newsletter. ''But it's tennis - women's tennis - and therefore a lot of people looked down upon it as a lesser sport. ... Whoever wants to harbor resentment is more than welcome to.

''Italy was there with its representatives, with its Olympic committee, to be with them, to say `Good job,' to say thanks, to show the world that was watching us that, like always, Italy is capable of anything,''

Besides being one of the focal points of the European migrant crisis, Italy has been beset by financial crisis and widening corruption scandals.

The 40-year-old Renzi, however, has been pushing through a series of reforms. He's also a big sports fan and a strong supporter of Rome's bid for the 2024 Olympics.

Renzi attended the final with Italian Olympic Committee President Giovanni Malago and sat next to tennis great Billie Jean King at one point. The premier received a standing ovation from the crowd when he was shown on the videoboards at Arthur Ashe Stadium, then posed for pictures with Pennetta and Vinci after the match.

''It's a marvelous Italian story, of two women who didn't give up and showed that we're capable of anything,'' Renzi said. ''Even winning when nobody believes in us.''


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