Veni. Vidi. Vici. Vinci! I don’t know if Roberta Vinci told herself “I came. I saw. I conquered.” when the final point of her 2015 US Open Women’s Semifinal triumph over the massively favored Serena Williams was won, but she certainly could have. Who would begrudge her that moment? Instead, it was tears that flowed for a player pretty much nobody gave a reasonable chance to win. Sure, a couple of days ago I wrote about underdogs like Buster Douglas, Rulon Gardner and the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team. They found a way to win. I said there is always a way, even if it would take a near perfect effort similar to what Villanova did to Georgetown. That said, I wouldn’t have bet any amount of money I cared about on Roberta. Vinci wasn’t perfect, but she did play beautiful all-court tennis that rose to a level that surprised even Serena, who would later say Roberta played “out of her mind.” Not only that, she showed steely resolve when other players who have had Serena in compromising positions have faltered. Vinci served to close out the second set at 5-4, but Serena fought to gain a break point. This was after Roberta lost the first set 2-6. I’ve seen so many players crumble against Serena in these situations. But Vinci would not let Serena even the set, fighting off the break to level the match at a set apiece, 2-6 6-4. The Italian veteran, who won the Career Grand Slam in doubles with former partner Sara Errani, didn’t fall apart after falling behind 0-2 in the final set, with Serena holding a game point to put Roberta in a love-3 hole. Instead, Vinci broke back for 1-2 on a Williams double fault. Roberta broke again in the seventh game and then held serve in the eighth to go up 5-3. She shut the door on Serena’s calendar year Grand Slam quest with 2-6 6-4 6-4 victory. Vinci will face countrywoman Flavia Pennetta, who upset the #2 seed Simona Halep, 6-1 6-3. Viva Italia!
Although Serena did not achieve the calendar year Grand Slam, let’s not forget that she did complete her second Serena Slam. At least until the Women’s Final is finished, Serena holds all four Major singles titles. She’s brought so much media and fan attention to tennis with her fantastic play. The women’s final at the US Open sold out faster than the men’s final. That was because of Serena. Equaling and surpassing Steffi Graf and Margaret Court in Major singles titles seems only a matter of time if Williams stays healthy and focused. You don’t have to be a fan of hers to appreciate what she has done in and for the sport of tennis and women’s athletics overall. Nothing that happened in this match changes her status as one of the greatest and most accomplished athletes in history.
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ROBERTA VINCI (won 2-6 6-4 6-4 vs 1 Serena Williams)
26 FLAVIA PENNETTA (won 6-1 6-3 vs 2 Simona Halep)