Roberta Vinci’s Career Defining, Wacky Win


Sep 11, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Roberta Vinci of Italy reacts after beating Serena Williams of the USA on day twelve of the 2015 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

US Open Player of Day Twelve: Roberta Vinci

Um… Okay, then.

I’ll begin by laying out the facts pertaining to the match, if only to temper my incredulity and disbelief. Unseeded Italian Roberta Vinci defeated world number one Serena Williams 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the US Open semifinals to reach her first grand slam singles final. Williams had been on a quest to claim a record-matching 22nd grand slam title, along with the elusive calendar grand slam. She entered the match 53-2 for the year, and had never lost a set to Vinci. Vinci, meanwhile, had been struggling for form after reaching a career high ranking of no. 11 two years ago. Her ranking stood at no. 43.

So.. Forza Roberta?

The women of the WTA tour are known to produce their fair share of insanity and ridiculous results – French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki come to mind. But this may just be the most shocking result the tour has ever come up with: Vinci was given almost impossible odds to win the US Open at the beginning of the tournament. As far as grand slam upsets come, this may well take top position.

Perhaps the person most surprised – okay, that might be a slight overstatement given her underdog status – was Vinci. Upon causing the biggest upset of the tournament, and decimating the most conspicuous storyline of the past fortnight, the Italian veiled her face in shock. When asked whether she had woken up with the belief that she could take out Williams, her reply was a definitive ‘no’. And although she lacked self-belief, her game plan of ‘running and getting balls back’ proved fruitful against the world no. 1.

Perhaps the most important thing to say about Vinci’s performance is that Serena didn’t play badly. Williams struck a respectable 50 winners to 40 unforced errors, and unfurled 16 aces on the Italian. But despite appearing in her first grand slam semifinal, Vinci managed to better play the more important points. Even Serena, the perfectionist, admitted that Vinci had played the best match of her career. Indeed, the match featured a peak Vinci. Her groundstrokes were awkward and confounding as always. And her net play – particularly her two half volleys in the last game – was outstanding.

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Now, let’s talk about Vinci’s grand final opponent, compatriot Flavia Pennetta. Of course, Vinci has been placed under the limelight, but Pennetta’s achievement in the semifinals shouldn’t go unrecognised. Pennetta was outstanding taking out Simona Halep 6-1, 6-3. Halep, drained after her win over Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals, gift wrapped the first set for Pennetta with a slew of unforced errors. Pennetta rolled through after that, piercing through a much more solid Halep in the second set with 16 superb winners to just 5 unforced errors.

The final matchup is not only record-breaking, given that it’s the first time that two Italian women will compete in a grand slam final, but it’s indicative of how well veteran players have been competing on tour recently. Pennetta and Vinci, at 33 and 32 years of age respectively, have both just reached their first grand slam final. Just a decade ago, players of their age would already be retired.

Even though the US Open final won’t be the record-determining no 1. vs no. 2 that most of us thought that the women’s final would be (and that the men’s final will be), it shouldn’t be disregarded. The opportunity to see two veteran compatriots, and close friends, compete for a belated, but much-deserved achievement is a very intriguing one. And it’s one that should be savoured amongst the occasionally too predictable sport (especially in the men’s game).

No matter the outcome of tomorrow’s final, both women are absolutely deserving of the recognition they are receiving. But as fantastic and commendable as Pennetta has been this fortnight, there’s no comparison for what Vinci has achieved. She’s defied the odds and her own preconceptions. She’s rewritten, or at the very least, delayed history. And she’s produced her best tennis to defeat the world number one Serena Williams.

For that, Roberta Vinci is our Player of the Day for Day Twelve at the US Open.

Former Players of the Day

Day Eleven: N/A due to rain delay

Day Ten: Simona Halep

Day Nine: Venus & Serena Williams

Day Eight: Kevin Anderson

Day Seven: Kristina Mladenovic

Day Six: Victoria Azarenka

Day Five: Fabio Fognini

Day Four: Johanna Konta

Day Three: Madison Keys

Day Two: Caroline Wozniacki

Day One: Benoit Paire

Who do you think was the best player of day twelve of the US Open? Let us know in the comments below!

Next: Power Ranking Serena Williams and the Top 25 Women Before the US Open

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