NEW YORK: Knowing every match could be her Grand Slam farewell, Flavia Pennetta relaxed and played some of her greatest tennis to win the US Open and capture her first major title.
The 33-year-old Italian retired on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) only minutes after defeating compatriot and friend-since-childhood Roberta Vinci 7-6 (4), 6-2 to become the oldest first-time women’s Grand Slam champion.
“With this winning today, my life is perfect,” Pennetta said.
“To play like this and finish like this, it’s amazing. I’m so happy and so proud of myself. I couldn’t finish in a better way.
“If I have to dream about how I want to stop playing, this is the perfect way.”
With the decision made last month at Toronto, Pennetta was more relaxed as she played her final Grand Slam event.
“Maybe that’s why I’m here today (as champion),” she said. “It takes a lot of pressure out. I was trying to play every match like it was my last one.”
Pennetta detailed her retirement plans after the match, saying she will play to the end of the year, including events at Wuhan and Beijing and the WTA Finals in Singapore if she qualifies.
But Pennetta has no plans to defend her crown or consider the 2016 Olympics because she says the time to leave is now.
“Sometimes it’s getting hard for me to compete,” Pennetta said. “If you don’t fight every week in the same way I did today, it’s going to be like bad. And I don’t feel I have this power anymore. So this is the perfect moment.
“Was a really hard decision to make, but I’m really happy that I did it.”
Pennetta only told her teen roommate and surrogate sister Vinci she would retire just before the awards ceremony.
“It’s so magical because you have one of your best friends with you at this moment,” Pennetta said. “She was unbelievable.”
Pennetta’s journey to a title on the New York hardcourts included having a drone crash into an empty part of Louis Armstrong Stadium during a second-round match against Romania’s Monica Niculescu, making her fear some sort of attack.
It also included three triumphs over higher-rated foes, ousting 22nd-ranked Australian Samantha Stosur, Czech fifth seed Petra Kvitova and Romanian second seed Simona Halep.
Pennetta’s decision to retire came at a tuneup event last month in Canada.
“I have to say, Toronto was the moment where I really say, ‘It’s the time,’” she said. “For me, sometimes, it’s getting hard to compete.”