Tennis princess Flavia Pennetta feels like she lived out a real-life sporting fairytale at the US Open.
After upstaging fellow Italian Roberta Vinci in Saturday’s final to become the oldest first-time women’s grand slam champion in professional tennis history, Pennetta revealed her retirement plans before riding off into the sunset with the trophy and her fiance.
“It’s a dream come true,” Pennetta said after denying her lifelong friend, Fed Cup teammate and former doubles partner 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 in the most unlikely of championship deciders.
“With this, winning today, my life is perfect.”
Pennetta, 33, and Vinci, 32, shared a bedroom in Rome for four years as teenagers and the newly crowned champion said playing her “sister” in the first all-Italian grand slam final only added to her career climax.
“It’s magical. You have one of your best friends with you,” said Pennetta, who revealed she’d decided three weeks ago to walk away from the game at the end of the year.
“It’s something amazing. I didn’t think to be here. She didn’t think neither to be here today.
“We know each other really well. We have so many things in our life happening together.
“It’s funny to be here today because we play the first match when we were nine years old in Brindisi, in my country club.
“So today was a really big day for both of us. It’s amazing for our country. Is amazing for everyone.”
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi mad a made dash to New York to be courtside at Arthur Ashe Stadium for the historic occasion.
“He was so happy for us,” Pennetta said.
“He say: `You’re not gonna understand what happen now in Italy. It’s good that you are here because in Italy now is going to be crazy.’
“It’s good to stay here a few days, just relax a little bit, and then go back home.”
A 150-1 long shot, Pennetta’s triumph crowned a remarkable comeback after the 26th seed had pondered retirement last year while battling a debilitating wrist injury.
“I never think to be a champion. When things come like this it’s a big surprise to me,” she said after joining 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone as the second Italian to win a grand slam singles crown.
But set to rise to a career-high ranking inside the top 10 next week, the veteran stunned the tennis world further after accepting her most prestigious trophy yet.
“One more thing I have to say. This is the way I would like to say goodbye to tennis,” Pennetta said before confirming she’ll play out the year.
“It is what all the players want to do, going out with this big trophy (to take) home.”
In addition to becoming the third-oldest open-era grand slam champion behind all-time greats Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams, Pennetta set new standards for patience.
Contesting her 49th career major, no woman has waited longer to break through at a grand slam.
Pennetta took out Australians Jarmila Gajdosova and 2011 champion Samantha Stosur, as well as two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, en route to the title.
Gracious in defeat, Vinci hailed her semi-final win over the top-ranked and grand slam-chasing Williams a “miracle” but said Pennetta was a deserving champion.
“I’m really happy and really happy for Flavia,” Vinci said.
“It’s tough to play against one player that you’ve known for a long time.
“It was a tough day, but I tried to do my best, but Flavia played unbelievable.”