Roberta Vinci waited a lifetime for this. On Friday afternoon at the U.S. Open, she finally made her first Grand Slam final at 32.
She apologized for it.
"It's like a dream," Vinci said during her on-court post-match interview. "I'm in the final. I beat Serena. Sorry, guys. Sorry."
The Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd applauded Vinci, and for that, they deserve a tip of the hat. After all, fans did not come to see Vinci pull arguably the greatest upset in the history of women's tennis, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. They expected Williams to continue her march into the record books.
Vinci has been a pro for 16 years and until now her best showings at a Grand Slam were the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in 2012 and 2013. The Italian lost in the first round in five of her past seven majors and came into Flushing ranked No. 43 in the world. And she will play for the championship. That, in itself, is a tremendous story.
But of course, it is not one even many Italians care about.
"[Serena's] really famous in Italy," says Vinci's countrywoman and final opponent Flavia Pennetta. "Wherever she goes, she's going to be someone really special. She's never going to be someone normal."
For Vinci, this tournament has become special.
"I think it's the best moment of my life," she said. "I'm really happy, but of course I'm a little bit really sad for Serena because she's an incredible player. There's a lot of public[ity] for her, but it's normal. Semifinal, almost to complete all Grand Slams, she deserved to win. She's the No. 1. I was a little bit sorry for this because for me she cannot reach the Grand Slam."
It is not Vinci who should feel sorry, but Williams. If Williams plays well, nobody can beat her, especially a journeywoman like Vinci. Williams won 58 of her past 60 matches. Vinci was a 300-to-1 underdog.
"I don't think I played that bad," Williams says. "I made more unforced errors than I normally make, but I think she played really well. She did not want to lose today. Neither did I, incidentally."
Williams probably won't be haunted by this loss 10 years from now. Odds are strong that she will get her 22nd Grand Slam title and it will be no surprise if she makes her seventh title run in Flushing. She still may be the greatest of all-time.
But it is her fault she lost.
Nineteen of Williams' 40 unforced errors came in the third set. For reference, she had 22 unforced errors in her entire three-set victory over Venus Williams in the quarterfinal.
Williams also won only four of 11 break points. Down a break 3-4 in the third set, Williams had her final two break points on Vinci. She blew both. A 36 percent break point rate on a weak-serving opponent (Vinci had one ace the whole match) is very un-Serena-like. Williams also won just 27 of 77 (35 percent) of baseline points.
Williams had 50 winners and 16 aces, but she let Vinci play her game. Anyone who watched Serena and Venus play Tuesday night saw vintage Williams sisters tennis. Rallying is an afterthought. Both go for winners.
Vinci dared Williams to make the mistakes Friday. She kept the ball in play and either watched Williams smash winners past her or mishit the ball. Williams did not take advantage of her opportunities and Vinci hung in until the end, totally dictating the third set of play.
"I thought she played the best tennis in her career," says Williams, who was 4-0 against Vinci before the match. "She's  and she's going for it at a late age. That's good for her to keep going for it and playing so well. Actually, I guess it's inspiring. I think she played literally out of her mind."
Vinci's poker face was remarkable for someone playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal. She says she was shaking after her break to go up 4-3 in the third set. Even when Williams had two break points, Vinci was still shaking. Williams botched those opportunities.
Asked how tight she thought Williams was, Vinci answered: "A lot."
Vinci had evidence.
"She broke one racquet at the end of the second set when I won the second set, and also, she made two double faults in I think at 3-all, Love-15," Vinci says. "On my mind, I said, 'Think about this. She's nervous. So try to keep it and fight every single point.'"
On U.S. soil, with a crowd that paid big bucks to see Williams inch one step closer to history, it was an Italian that stirred up the fans, most of whom had never heard of her a week ago. After one critical rally, she even made a motion to hype up the crowd, looking like LeBron James in Cleveland or Richard Sherman in Seattle.
"I won a great point and of course all the crowd was for her," Vinci says. "Come on, one time for me."
Vinci did not even think she could win. She had a flight booked for Saturday.
"Yesterday, I called my travel agency to say, OK, book me a flight because you know…," Vinci says with a laugh. "Now I have my final tomorrow.
"It's 10 [p.m.]. So maybe I can…[make it]."
When asked if she thought she could win at any point in the match, Vinci answers, "Never," with a smile, although she later said Williams' two late blown set points gave her legitimate hope. Asked what is the best upset she can remember watching, she says, "Today."
In the media center, Pennetta had her press conference during the match. She went to the podium just after Williams won the first set.
"I mean you never know," Pennetta said. "They are still fighting and they are still playing."
Now, there is an all-Italian final.
And Williams' 2015 calendar Grand Slam chase is over.
"I did win three Grand Slams this year," Williams says. "I won four in a row. It's pretty good."
She could have won five in a row. She should have won five in a row. And then bam. With Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian, Drake and all the names we know have been watching, down went Williams.
"I told you guys I don't feel pressure," Williams says. "I never felt pressure. I don't know. I never felt that pressure to win here. I said that from the beginning."
Maybe not, but she still beat herself.
Williams could not keep her shots in, and she let Vinci know her emotions were on edge. Roberta Vinci deserves credit for a gutsy performance. She never went away and made Williams work.
But let's not kid ourselves. Serena Williams made the tennis world look silly for the past year and change. Like Vinci said, Williams deserved to win.
As for what Vinci will say next time she sees Williams.
"I go like this," Vinci says, laughing and pretending to hide her face. "What do I have to say? She's No. 1. It doesn't matter if she lost to me today. For me, she's the very best right now."
Vinci is right. Vinci won, but the real story is that Williams lost. It was that type of day for the best player right now.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.