Flavia Pennetta has broken through for her first major singles title after beating fellow Italian Roberta Vinci in the US Open final in New York City.
Vinci could not repeat her semi-final performance where she halted Serena Williams’s quest for a Grand Slam, with Pennetta winning in straight sets 7-6 (7-4), 6-2.
Pennetta, at age 33, became the oldest first-time female major singles winner in the Open era and announced her retirement during the presentation ceremony.
“It’s a dream come true,” Pennetta said.
“When I was young I wanted to be number one or to win a grand slam. Also, I’d like to win Rome, but a grand slam may be a little better.
“It’s also nice to play with a friend of mine. Roberta played unbelievable this tournament.”
The 26th-ranked Pennetta says she has no regrets about deciding to retire.
“It’s what every player wants to do – go out [by taking] this big trophy home,” she said.
“This one was my last match in the US Open and I couldn’t think of a better way to end my career.”
Pennetta became the second Italian woman to win a major singles crown following Francesca Schiavone’s victory at the 2010 French Open.
“I’m really happy right now,” said Pennetta, a 150-1 long shot to win the title when the Flushing Meadows fortnight began.
“Before this tournament I never think to be so far. I never think to be a champion. When things come like this it’s a big surprise to me.”
Pennetta took the top prize of $US3.3 million, while runner-up Vinci received $1.6 million.
The breakthrough win came in Pennetta’s 49th major appearance, the most needed for any women’s major champion, two more than France’s Marion Bartoli when she won at Wimbledon in 2013.
Vinci shattered the hopes of Williams to achieve the first Grand Slam since 1988 with a semi-final win over the top-ranked defending champion, while Pennetta dispatched Romania’s second-ranked Simona Halep.
“It was tough,” Vinci said of returning after the emotional drain of ousting Williams.
“I passed the 24 hours with a lot of things on my mind. I was really tired especially in the first set, but I was in the US Open final so I was really happy.”
Friends since childhood in southern Italy, Vinci, 32, and Pennetta had the oldest combined ages of any Open era major final duo, beating the former mark of just under 64 years from when Virginia Wade beat Betty Stove in the 1977 Wimbledon final.
“It’s tough to play against one player you know from a long time,” Vinci said.
“Was tough today but I tried to do my best. Flavia played unbelievable today. Great match.”
Pennetta claims opening set in tie-breaker
Pennetta, who took a 6-4 lead in the career rivalry, leaped to a career-best eighth in the rankings with her 11th career title, the first since last year at Indian Wells.
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi was among 23,771 in Arthur Ashe Stadium watching the first all-Italian women’s major final of the Open era.
The first US Open women’s championship match between major finalist debutantes saw Pennetta force seven break points against Vinci before breaking through for a 3-2 edge in the first set.
Vinci hit a backhand cross-court winner to earn her first break point in the eighth game and Pennetta netted a backhand to pull Vinci even at 4-4 on the way to a tie-break.
Pennetta won five of the last seven points in the decider, the last on a service winner to claim the opening set after an hour.
She broke Vinci for a 2-0 lead and moved ahead 4-0 when Vinci netted a backhand to surrender another break.
Vinci broke back in the fifth game, a Pennetta drop shot leading to a Vinci overhead smash, and held but Pennetta regained momentum with a lob winner to hold and grab a 5-2 edge, then broke for the win.