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Thursday 8 December 2016

Tennis: 'With this, winning today, my life is perfect' - Flavia Pennetta wins US Open and retires

US Open champion wins first grand slam title and retires

Flavia Pennetta, of Italy, holds the U.S. Open tennis women's singles championship trophy during a visit to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015, in New York
Flavia Pennetta, of Italy, holds the U.S. Open tennis women's singles championship trophy during a visit to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015, in New York

US Open champion Flavia Pennetta believes lifting a first grand slam title next to her childhood friend was the perfect way to end her career.

Pennetta beat fellow Italian and long-time companion Roberta Vinci 7-6 (7/4) 6-2 and then used her victory speech to announce her retirement in front of a shocked crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The world number 26 will still play on until the end of the season but this was her last outing at Flushing Meadows and her final match at a grand slam.

Pennetta had been rated 150/1 to win before the fortnight began and at 33, she becomes the oldest female in the Open era to win a major tournament for the first time.

The surprise victory is worth 3,300,000 US dollars and Pennetta is projected to rise to eighth in the world rankings, but the veteran Italian was in no doubt about her decision to call it a day.

“Sometimes we are more scared to take the decision because we don’t know what we’re going to do after but I think it’s going to be a pretty good life,” Pennetta said.

“I’m really proud of myself. I think I did everything that I expect. More. Much more.

“You start when you are really young and you make a lot of decisions, hard decisions, you lose so many things when you’re young.

“With this, winning today, my life is perfect.

“ I cannot say anything different. Perfect.”

It was the Open era’s first all-Italian grand slam final and there was a distinctly Mediterranean feel to the contest as the players walked out to Francesco Sartori’s ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ blaring out around the arena.

Pennetta’s Italian boyfriend, world number 32 Fabio Fognini, was in attendance, as was Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi, who spoke to the champion after the match.

“He said, ‘You don’t going to understand what happens now in Italy’,” Pennetta said.

“He was talking with me and Roberta because we were together. In Italy now is going to be crazy.”

Vinci and Pennetta first played together when they were nine years old in Brindisi, Pennetta’s home town, and as teenagers the pair moved to Rome where they enrolled with the Italian tennis federation’s talent programme and lived together as room-mates for four years.

After her historic victory, Pennetta whispered to Vinci her decision to retire as they sat next to each other on court, waiting for the presentation to begin.

“I told her, ‘Roberta, this is my last New York’,” Pennetta said.

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