Even the loser was cracking jokes.

That's how special this all-Italian women's final of the U.S. Open was to the two participants.

Shortly after Flavia Pennetta had won the title 7-6, 6-2, on Saturday, Roberta Vinci was giggling to the media about sharing a name with Leonard Da Vinci.

"My uncle," Vinci says. "No, no, no. Non scrivere!"

Or in English, don't write that.

Flavia Pennetta And Roberta Vinci Trophies

But we will. Because it is funny and that is part of the story. Sometimes superstars like Serena Williams can grow weary of the media and respond curtly after years of being asked questions every second they step off the court.

For Pennetta and Vinci, this moment in the spotlight was as rare as it was unexpected. Entering the tournament, it seemed like simply a formality for Williams to complete the calendar Grand Slam and tie Steffi Graf's record with her 22nd Grand Slam title.

Pennetta and Vinci understood this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and they saw talking to the media as part of the thrill, more privilege than obligation.

"Maybe I'm here just because I'm trying," Pennetta says. "I was fighting a lot. Every point. Just point by point, I try to do my best all the time and suddenly, it's coming. Yesterday was a perfect day because I played really well. Today, I didn't play so so well, but enough to win. So I'm happy."

Flavia Pennetta Tongue

After winning, Pennetta announced her retirement in front of the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd. Her team knew about the decision, but it did not know Pennetta planned to drop the mic in such a theatrical fashion.

It was a fittingly dramatic end to an improbable tale. The 33-year-old had played in 48 Grand Slams, the most of any player in the draw without a championship. She had never even reached a final. In 2015, she lost in the first round in two of the first three majors. She entered her 49th Grand Slam 49 as the No. 26 seed with 150/1 odds to win the title.

"It's amazing because 20 days ago, my physio asked me if I think I can win a Grand Slam or be in a final of a Grand Slam," Pennetta said after her semifinal win over Simona Halep. "I say 'no."

How big was this in Italy? Prime Minister Matteo Renzi flew overnight to see his two citizens play. No Italian -- male or female -- had ever won the U.S. Open.

"He said, 'You don't understand what happens now in Italy,'" Pennetta says of Renzi's post-match conversation with her and Vinci."'It's good you are here. In Italy now, it is going to be crazy. It's good to stay back a few days, just relax a little bit and then go back home.'"

Pennetta's fiancé, men's No. 32 Fabio Fognini, reached the fourth round at the U.S. Open, beating Rafael Nadal in a five-set thriller along the way, then went home to Italy. Pennetta's run to the title made him turn around and return to Flushing.


Pennetta's road was bruising. She needed three sets in her opening match against world No. 76 Jarmila Gajdosova. A drone crashed into Louis Armstrong Stadium during her second-round victory against Monica Niculescu. Pennetta needed another three sets in her third-round win against Petra Cetkovska and says she had a panic attack after losing the first set.

She then beat two straight Grand Slam champions, No. 22 seed Samantha Stosur and No. 5 Petra Kvitova, before wiping No. 2 Simona Halep, 6-1, 6-3.

Vinci's route was equally arduous. Starting unseeded, world No. 43 Vinci worked her way into a semifinal bout with Williams. She dispatched the six-time U.S. Open champion in three sets.

Vinci and Pennetta share more than just a flag. The two met on the tennis court when they were 9 and 8 at a country club in Brindisi, Italy. At 14 and 13, they moved to Rome to train within the Italian Federation. They roomed together for about four years.

"When I saw her in my mind, I remember all the moments that we spend together when I was young," Vinci says.

Flavia Pennetta Racquet Toss

Pennetta called her the "perfect" roommate.

When the two women sat down after the match, Pennetta told Vinci this would be her final time in New York. That triggered a playful reaction from Vinci in which she punched Pennetta. She took the antics into the on-court interviews.




"She said it's perfect. Go. Go," Pennetta says of Vinci's reaction.

Pennetta also said she received a congratulatory message from Francesca Schiavone, 35, who won Italy's first women's major title at the 2010 French Open. Pennetta says she has a four-way chat with Vinci, Schiavone and a fourth individual, who one may assume is Sara Errani, the World No. 16 and doubles partner of Pennetta (and former partner of Vinci).

"You cannot see this chat because it's crazy," Pennetta says.

Pennetta's retirement details are a bit hazy, as she made her decision public on a whim. When Pennetta hit her final shot for a winner, she decided to let it out.

"Sometimes, we are more scared to make the decision because we don't know what we like or what we're going to do after," she says. "I think it's going to be a pretty good life. I'm really proud of myself. I think I did everything that I expected and much more."

Pennetta, who had contemplated pulling out of the French Open this year, felt the end tugging on her last month tournament in Toronto where she lost to Williams, including a 6-0 third-set loss in the second round.

"When you have to play 24 weeks in the year, you have to fight every week," Pennetta says. "If you don't fight every week in the same way I did today, it's going to be bad. I don't feel like I have this power anymore sometimes. So this is the perfect moment, I think. It was a really hard decision to make, but I'm really happy I did it."

Flavia Pennetta And Roberta Vinci Laugh

She was clear to say this is her last tournament in New York, but she is still playing until the end of the year. As for the Olympics, Pennetta says, "For the moment, it's not on my goals."

Perhaps going out in Rome, at the Italian Open, the one event Pennetta says she aspired to play in her youth, would be a fitting end to her career next spring. Italy is a focal point of this story. Schiavone set the bar for Italian women's tennis. Pennetta has raised it.

"It's a really big, big moment for us in Italy and around the world," Pennetta says. "I think we didn't prove too much. We already proved during this year how we are, how good we are in what we are doing, how much heart we put all the time when we get on the court. It's amazing to have the chance to play with one of your friends."

Vinci adds: "When I come back home, I can realize what we made because now, for me, it is not normal."

Americans wanted to see their long-time hero, Serena Williams, make history. Instead, they got a darn good consolation prize, even if many chose to ignore it. They got two Italian women making history for their country and doing so in the most exuberant of ways.

"I love New York!" Vinci says at the end of her press conference. "Today, this is probably my last cheeseburger and tomorrow, pasta -- real pasta at home."

Flavia Pennetta And Roberta Vinci Smile

More Tennis: 2015 U.S. Open Food Highlights

-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.

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