Roberta Vinci Ends a Career Defined by One Match

Roberta Vinci Ends a Career Defined by One Match


ROME — Roberta Vinci played her last professional match on Monday, ending a 19-year career that included one of the biggest upsets in the history of professional tennis.

Vinci, 35, lost, 2-6, 6-0, 6-3, to Aleksandra Krunic in the first round of the Italian Open in front of a raucous crowd. She confirmed after the match that it was her last.

“I’m tired, but I’m happy,” she said.

Vinci, 35, announced in December that the Italian Open would be her final tournament. The packed, passionate crowd on Monday included her parents and other friends and family.

“Tennis was my life,” she wrote on Twitter. “I gave everything to tennis and tennis gave everything to me. Today, with no regrets, in front of this beautiful audience, ends my career. It was a magnificent adventure.”

Vinci, now ranked 191st, reached a career high of No. 7 in singles in 2016. She will be best remembered for her stunning upset of Serena Williams in the semifinals of the 2015 United States Open, stopping Williams two matches short in her bid for a Grand Slam.

Vinci, ranked 43rd and just 5-foot-4, unnerved the top-ranked Williams with a barrage of low slices and all-court play that kept Williams from finding any rhythm.

That tournament represented a peak not only for Vinci, but for Italian women’s tennis: she lost the final to her countrywoman Flavia Pennetta in a match attended by Italy’s prime minister at the time, Matteo Renzi.

“Vinci will be more remembered for beating Serena than Pennetta will be winning the U.S. Open,” the veteran Italian journalist Ubaldo Scanagatta said.

Vinci said that she still looks back on the victory over Williams with disbelief.

“It was the best victory, of course, of my life, and the public can remember me with Serena,” she said. “The crowd and everything, it was an incredible day.”

Williams never got a chance to avenge the loss, as the two never faced each other again on tour.

“I’m not sad,” Vinci said, smiling. “It’s O.K. I didn’t want the revenge.”

The U.S. Open was by far the most successful Grand Slam event of Vinci’s singles career. Aside from her run to the final in 2015, she reached the quarterfinals on three other occasions; she never advanced past the fourth round at any of the other three Grand Slam events.

But Vinci was at her best in doubles: she spent 110 weeks ranked No. 1 in those rankings, and won five Grand Slam titles, all with Sara Errani. She did not finish a season ranked inside the singles top 40 until 2010, but eventually learned to translate her all-court game to singles.

“It was pretty tough to play against her: a lot of slices from the backhand, and just a little bit different game than the other players,” Karolina Pliskova said. “She doesn’t look like it, but she was dangerous and she can use the court. And she can just play great tennis.”

Vinci, Pennetta, Errani and Francesca Schiavone were the core that led Italy to its first four Fed Cup titles, winning in 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2013.

It was a golden generation of Italian women’s tennis: all four reached the top 10, led by Schiavone, who won the 2010 French Open and rose as high as No. 4.

The near future of Italian tennis does not seem as rosy; there are only two Italian women currently in the WTA top 100: 56th-ranked Camila Giorgi and the 75th-ranked Errani. Pennetta retired after winning the 2015 U.S. Open, and the 271st-ranked Schiavone, 37, has often discussed retirement.

This is the second time in the past year that Krunic has ended an opponent’s career in front of a home crowd. She also was the opponent in the final match of Kimiko Date’s career last September in Tokyo.

“It’s never an easy situation to find yourself in, because you still have to perform and it’s still another match,” Krunic said. “It might be the last match of her career, but it might be my last match of the tournament, so it’s always 50-50. It was tough for me to focus in the first set, I was very overwhelmed. The crowd was amazingly good toward her.”

NOTES

In other first-round matches, Novak Djokovic beat Alexandr Dolgopolov, 6-1, 6-3, the day he fell to No. 18 in the rankings, his lowest standing since 2006 when he was still a rising pro. Kei Nishikori defeated Feliciano López, 7-6 (5), 6-4, for his first victory since reaching the Monte Carlo Masters final last month. Naomi Osaka eliminated Victoria Azarenka, 6-0, 6-3, and Madison Keys beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-4, 6-1. (AP)

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