Although Flavia Pennetta made it clear that she would retire at the end of her season, the time came last week as she fell to Maria Sharapova in Singapore. Pennetta was a class act on the WTA tour, and the legacy she leaves is an important one to share.
As noted in our Little Tennis Stars series, Pennetta was introduced to tennis by her father at the age of five. The girl went on to bring unprecedented glory to Italian women’s tennis, and here are some of the things for which we will remember her.
Pennetta’s singles career was at times a rollercoaster, especially in the years in which she suffered wrist injuries (2006 and 2012). In 2012, she nearly retired, but fortunately fought on to achieve some of the most rewarding individual accomplishments of her career in the next years. Among these was her first Premier Mandatory title at Indian Wells 2014, the historic US Open title this September, and, most recently, a prolific WTA Finals appearance.
Her US Open victory was a record-breaker, as Penneta became the oldest player to win a maiden Open championship (33 and six months), had played the most Grand Slam matches (49) before winning a title, and was just the second Italian woman to ever win a Grand Slam title after Francesca Schiavone. On August 17th, 2009, she became the first Italian woman to reach a ranking of number 10, but surpassed this after the US Open this year with a number eight ranking and further improved it on September 28th with a career-high No.6 ranking. In her 15-year professional career, she earned 11 WTA singles titles.
Flavia Pennetta first solidified her reputation as a formidable doubles player, and she would eventually possess 17 WTA doubles titles over her career. As early as 1999, she claimed the girls’ doubles title at the French Open with longtime friend Roberta Vinci. In her professional career, Pennetta began to see big time results with partner Gisela Dulko, winning the doubles title at the 2010 WTA Finals and opening the following season with the Australian Open doubles trophy. On February 28th, 2011, she claimed a number one doubles ranking, becoming the first Italian player (male or female) to achieve such a feat in doubles or singles.
DECORUM AND SPORTSMANSHIP
Although Pennetta was known as a fighter on the court (primarily due to her tenacious performances representing Italy at the Fed Cup), she was renowned on tour for her ever-present smile, friendliness, and leadership. Her respect for the game and each of her competitors served as an example for younger players and was widely admired by fans as well.
Flavia Pennetta is a treasured member of the women’s tennis family, and fans and players alike are sorry to see her go. However, it is heartwarming to see how satisfied she is with her impressive 15-year career (see video by the WTA below), and we wish her all the best in her retired life. Congratulations Flavia, and thanks for the memories!