The 2015 U.S. Open was supposed to be a celebration of American Serena Williams, who was going after the Calendar Grand Slam and trying to tie Steffi Graf’s record of 22 career Grand Slams in the Open Era, but the show was stolen by Italian Flavia Pennetta, who dazzled the Queens crowd for two weeks on her way to her first career Grand Slam title.
Pennetta dropped just three sets on her way to the title, which included a comeback win over two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and an easy 6-1, 6-3 victory over second-seeded Simona Halep in the semifinals.
In the finals, she took advantage of what was most likely an emotionally-drained Roberta Vinci, who had beaten Serena in the semifinals, and beat her Italian compatriot in straight sets, 7–6, 6–2.
Pennetta became the oldest player in the Open Era to win her first career Grand Slam and was clearly playing the best tennis of her life throughout the two weeks in Flushing.
But immediately after the win, the 33-year-old from Brindisi, Italy leaned over to her good friend and U.S. Open final opponent Vinci and told her that she is going to be retiring at the end of this year.
“This was the perfect moment, I think,” Pennetta said. “It was a really hard decision to make, but I’m really happy that I did it. I’m really happy and I’m proud of myself.”
Her decision took many by surprise, including Vinci. But Pennetta made the decision that so few professional athletes across all sports get to make: She is walking away from the sport on her own terms, a decision that no one can argue with.
“Sometimes we are scared to make the decision because we don’t know what we like or what we are going to do after, how life is going to be,” said Pennetta on what she will do after tennis. “But I think it’s going to be a pretty good life.”
Most careers of professional athletes either end in injury, the loss of ability, or in the case of team sports, there isn’t a franchise that sees a need for your services anymore.
While her career wasn’t immediately over after the U.S. Open, she has played in tournaments in Beijing and Tianjin in hopes of qualifying for the end of the year finals in Singapore, announcing your retirement at the height of your athletic prowess is a noble endeavor.
Pennetta is engaged to fellow Italian and professional tennis player Fabio Fognini, currently ranked 22nd in the ATP Men’s Singles Rankings, says she couldn’t be happier with where her life is at. In addition to her Grand Slam win in Flushing Meadows, Pennetta has won 17 doubles titles over the course of her career.
“It’s a good moment in my life,” Pennetta said. “I have everything that I always would like to have. Professionally, I’m in the perfect moment. I won one of my favorite tournaments, one of the best tournaments in the world. I have a high ranking. I have the person that I love with me. I can just say that I’m really happy.”
Her final tournament as a professional will be at the WTA Finals in Singapore, the seventh WTA Tour player to qualify for the 2015 year-end finals.
"Qualifying for the WTA Finals is a dream come true and the perfect way to end to an amazing season for me,” said Pennetta. “It will also be a wonderful way for me to say to say goodbye to tennis. It's a spectacular stage to bow out on. Having won the WTA Finals before in doubles, I can't wait to make my debut in singles."