Pennetta wins US Open for 1st Slam title, says she'll retire

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Flavia Pannetta Wins U.S. Open, Announces Retirement

NEW YORK (AP) -- Talk about going out on top: Flavia Pennetta won the U.S. Open for her first Grand Slam title at age 33, and then announced during the trophy ceremony she has decided to retire.

Pennetta did not have to beat Serena Williams in the final. Instead, Pennetta needed to get past the woman who ended Williams' Grand Slam bid, Roberta Vinci. And Pennetta was able to do just that, pulling away in a matchup of Italians who were opponents and doubles partners as kids.

In one of the unlikeliest major finals in women's tennis history, the 26th-seeded Pennetta beat Vinci 7-6 (4), 6-2 at Flushing Meadows on Saturday -- then revealed she was ready to hang up her racket, a decision she kept private until that moment.''

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Pennetta wins US Open for 1st Slam title, says she'll retire
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Flavia Pennetta of Italy celebrates with the winner's trophy after defeating Roberta Vinci of Italy during their Women's Singles Final match on Day Thirteen of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Pennetta defeated Vinci 7-6, 6-2. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Flavia Pennetta of Italy celebrates with her winning trophy after defeating her compatriot Roberta Vinci during their 2015 US Open Women's singles final match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 12, 2015. Pennetta won her first Grand Slam singles title defeating Vinci 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 in the US Open women's final, then promptly retired. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Flavia Pennetta of Italy is congratulated by her compatriot Roberta Vinci after defeating her during their 2015 US Open Women's singles final match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 12, 2015. Pennetta won her first Grand Slam singles title defeating Vinci 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 in the US Open women's final, then promptly retired. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Flavia Pennetta (R) of Italy and Roberta Vinci (L) of Italy are interviewed by Broadcaster Robin Roberts (not pictured) after their Women's Singles Final match on Day Thirteen of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Pennetta defeated Vinci 7-6, 6-2. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Broadcaster Robin Roberts (L) interviews Flavia Pennetta (C) of Italy after she defeated Roberta Vinci (R) of Italy during their Women's Singles Final match on Day Thirteen of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Pennetta defeated Vinci 7-6, 6-2. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Flavia Pennetta of Italy celebrates after defeating Roberta Vinci of Italy during their Women's Singles Final match on Day Thirteen of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Pennetta defeated Vinci 7-6, 6-2. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Flavia Pennetta of Italy celebrates after defeating Roberta Vinci of Italy during their Women's Singles Final match on Day Thirteen of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Pennetta defeated Vinci 7-6, 6-2. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Roberta Vinci, of Italy, left, and Flavia Pennetta, of Italy, react during the trophy ceremony for the women's championship match of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in New York. Pennetta beat Vinci in straight sets. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Flavia Pennetta, of Italy, right, waves as Roberta Vinci, of Italy, looks on during the trophy ceremony after Pennetta won the women's championship match of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Flavia Pennetta, of Italy, reacts as she poses for photos with the championship trophy after beating Roberta Vinci, of Italy, in the women's championship match of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Flavia Pennetta, of Italy, reacts after beating Roberta Vinci, of Italy, during the women's championship match of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Flavia Pennetta of Italy kisses her trophy after defeating her compatriot Roberta Vinci during their 2015 US Open Women's singles final match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 12, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Flavia Pennetta of Italy celebrates her victory over Roberta Vinci of Italy during their US Open 2015 women's single final match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Center September 12, 2015 in New York. Pennetta won 7-6 (7/4), 6-2. AFP PHOTO/TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Flavia Pennetta (R) of Italy hugs Roberta Vinci (L) of Italy during their Women's Singles Final match on Day Thirteen of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Pennetta defeated Vinci 7-6, 6-2. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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"This is how I say goodbye to tennis," Pennetta said as her fiance, tennis player Fabio Fognini, captured the scene with his phone's camera. "I couldn't think to finish in a better way."

That announcement served as a perfectly out-of-nowhere conclusion to a surprise-filled tournament, the biggest shock being Vinci's win against Williams in the semifinals Friday. That stopped Williams' 33-match winning streak in majors and her attempt to become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988 to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in a single season.

"I passed 24 hours with a lot of things on mind," Vinci said. "And I was a little bit tight, especially in the first set."

Pennetta is the oldest woman in the Open era, 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.

They grew up 40 miles (65 kilometers) apart in coastal towns in Puglia, a region on the heel of Italy's boot-shaped peninsula, and have been facing each other on court for two decades — with the stakes much lower, of course. They shared laughs and tears in the locker room Friday while watching a video of a TV interview they did back in 1999, when they won the French Open junior doubles title as teenagers.

"It's tough," Vinci acknowledged, "to play against one player that you know (for a) long time."

And when Saturday's match ended, after Pennetta flung her racket overhead, she went up to the net to find Vinci, not for a handshake but for a lengthy hug. Vinci patted her pal on the back repeatedly, while Pennetta cried. Then they sat on adjacent sideline chairs and chatted, just a couple of foes and friends.

Vinci pantomimed throwing a punch as a joke, and Pennetta wrapped an arm around her. Vinci charmed the crowd later, saying she wanted the champion's trophy, not the one for the runner-up, then pretending to steal Pennetta's $3.3 million check.

"We know each other since forever," Pennetta said. "We spend so much time together, we could write a book about our lives."

Quite a chapter Saturday would provide.

Rain fell in the second set, then turned into a downpour after the match. The players sought shelter in the tournament referee's office, where they posed for pictures with Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, who attended the final and received a standing ovation from spectators when he was shown on the arena's videoboards.

Pennetta won by playing solidly and effectively using her best shot, a flat two-handed backhand. It helped that Vinci's volleys and backhand slice that were so effective against Williams were less reliable this time.

Pennetta won the first 10 points that lasted at least 10 strokes. Vinci only won the points on three of her first 10 trips to the net, and wound up 15 for 30 in that category.

The Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd -- some folks had paid top dollar for tickets, in anticipation of seeing Williams take aim at history -- was rather quiet, especially in the opening set. Perhaps it was difficult to decide which relatively unknown woman to cheer for.

Now, though, Pennetta will always be known as a Grand Slam champion, even if she never wins -- or even plays -- another match.

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