Roberta Vinci, 2015 US Ope,
Roberta Vinci’s road to the final
Round Opponent Score
R1 Vania King 6-4 6-4
R2 Denisa Allertova 2-6 6-3 6-1
R3 Mariana Duque-Marino 6-1 5-7 6-2
R4 Eugenie Bouchard [25] wo
QF Kristina Mladenovic 6-3 5-7 6-4
SF Serena Williams [1] 2-6 6-4 6-4

Roberta Vinci defeated just one seeded player en route to her first Grand Slam final, but what a win it was! In one of the greatest upsets in tennis history, she beat world No 1 Serena Williams in three sets and ended her Grand Slam dream.

This is the best match that I played in my life. At the end when I made a break, 4-3, and served, I was a little bit scared. But in my mind, I say, ‘Don’t think about this, because maybe you have more pressure. Stay calm, relax, and breathe during every single point. Don’t think that you have Serena on the other side of the court.

She will face Flavia Pennetta, with whom she won the Roland Garros junior doubles title, in an all-Italian final.

“It’s an incredible moment, but one Italian will win for sure,” said Vinci.

Flavia Pennetta’s road to the final

Flavia Pennetta - US Open Tennis 2015

Round Opponent Score
R1 Jarmila Gajdosova 6-2 3-6 6-1
R2 Monica Niculescu 6-1 6-4
R3 Petra Cetkovska 1-6 6-1 6-4
R4 Sam Stosur [22] 6-4 6-4
QF Petra Kvitova [5] 4-6 6-4 6-2
SF Simona Halep [2] 6-1 6-3

After victories over 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur and 2-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Flavia made a quick work of world number 2 Simona Halep in the semifinal. She was surprised by her own performance:

I never thought I’d be so far in the tournament, so it’s something special. I didn’t play really well in the last week and the feeling was not that good. I just come here and try to practice, try to find the good feeling with the ball, with the atmosphere here, and everything seems to be working.

Flavia Pennetta – Roberta Vinci head to head: 5-4

Flavia leads their head to head 5-4 but it seems tough to designate a favorite: nerves will play a big part in this match as they both will play their first Grand Slam final ever.

Year Tournament Surface Winner Score
2013 US Open QF Hard Flavia Pennetta 6-4 6-1
2010 Roland Garros R64 Clay Flavia Pennetta 6-1 6-1
2009 Tokyo R64 Hard Roberta Vinci 6-1 6-2
2009 Palermo R16 Clay Flavia Pennetta 7-5 6-1
2009 Barcelona R16 Clay Roberta Vinci 6-1 6-2
2007 Acapulco R16 Clay Flavia Pennetta 6-0 6-2
2007 Bogota SF Clay Roberta Vinci 3-6 7-6 6-2
2005 Palermo QF Clay Flavia Pennetta 6-1 4-6 7-6
2003 Ortisei R32 Carpet Roberta Vinci 2-6 7-6 6-3

Roberta or Flavia? Anything can happen today, but the only sure thing is one of the two will become the 4th Grand Slam singles champion from Italy after Nicola Pietrangeli, Adriano Panatta and Francesca Schiavone. The winner will also be the oldest first-time Grand Slam champion.

Photo credit: Maryland Male, Richard Wentworth

Adriano Panatta

From Love Thirty, three decades of champions – published in 1990

Panatta had much in common with Ilie Nastase in that both were under-achievers who never fully exploited their talent but gave immense pleasure and attracted huge followings. The obvious differences between them lay in playing method and conduct. Nastase was the more flamboyant competitor but his behavior was often offensive. Panatta had more power and his deportment was elegantly disciplined as his tennis. He was a heart-throb who milked the role in an engaging way, rather as John Newcombe did. His teenaged fans could admire the man and his tennis without the reservations necessary in Nastase’s case. Panatta was a model of the tall, dark and handsome hero or, to flaunt another cliché, the strong, silent man. At the same time he could be demonstrative in the Italian way and the ladies did not mind at all when he put on his sulky look or tossed back his forelock.

At six feet and almost 13 stone Panatta was a fine athlete, though the professional sportsman was always slightly at odds with his well developed taste for food and wine and the dolce vita. He was a renowned, attractive sportsman who fitted perfectly into fashionable Roman society. When he appeared at the Foro Italico the public’s excitement was so passionately partisan – to the point of conducting matches rather than merely watching them – that players from overseas felt no more popular than early Christians did at the Colosseum. In Panatta’s era the crowd’s hostility towards his opponents was sometimes frightening. Nor was justice consistently evenhanded. But all that was not Panatta’s fault. His presence simply kindled emotional fires that occasionally out of control.

On the other hand one would not wish Italians to be anything but warmly appreciative of tennis players whose brush-strokes respect the nation’s proud artistic traditions. Panatta was not the first.
Two particularly interesting characters 30 years ago were Beppe Merlo and Nicola Pietrangeli. Merlo was a dapper little chap who defied most of the conventions except in his ability to put the ball where his opponents didn’t want it and, often, didn’t expect it. He used a short grip and had no more than a hint of a backswing. No more than a hint of a service, either. He just prodded the ball into play. Merlo’s racket was so loosely strung that his strokes were noiseless save for a muffled plunk. But he was an artful nudger commanding a deceptive variety of spin. Merlo’s tennis was so eccentric, so baffling, that opponents ran the risk of getting their legs knotted.

By contrast Pietrangeli was a classically conventional clay-courter. Born in Tunis of Franco-Russian parents, he could have been a top-class footballer. Instead, Pietrangeli played and won more Davis Cup matches than any other player, took Italy to two challenge rounds with the help of a giant called Orlando Sirola, and twice won the French championship. He played with enviable economy of effort and had such a deft touch that occasionally, like Manuel Santana, he could make a drop-shot spin back over the net. In 1962 Pietrangeli and Nikki Pilic established a Wimbledon record with a 46-game set. Pietrangeli was also an active socialite who often stayed up half the night, arguing that there was nothing much to do in the mornings except sleep.

Panatta first caught ou attention when he beat Clark Graebner in the 1968 Queensland championships in Brisbane. It soon became evident that for all his size and strength and his agility at the net, Panatta was most at ease when using the drop-and-lob routine to design leisurely, almost languid patterns across sunlit clay courts. […]

His annus mirabilis was 1976, when he won the Italian and French championships in three weeks and – with the help of Corrado Barazzutti in singles and Paolo Bertolucci in doubles – brought Italy the Davis Cup for the only time in the competition’s history. It helped that four out of six ties were played at home. Panatta’s individual triumphs in Rome and Paris were remarkable for the fact that in each tournament he came within a point of losing in the first round.

In Rome, Kim Warwick had no fewer than 11 match points. In Paris, Pavel Hutka, an ambidextruous Czechoslovak newcomer to Roland Garros, had only one match point – but the memory of that point is vivid. Silence fell like a pall over the sunny stadium as Panatta prepared to serve. Fault. Both men fidgeted. There was no other movement, no sound. The birds had stopped singing. Hutka clipped the net cord in returning the second ball. Panatta, dashing in, had to break his stride but hit deep and stood towering at the net, waiting to see what Hutka and the gods had in store for him. Hutka’s lob looked a winner but Panatta’s vertical take-off achieved a feeble return off the frame. Hutka’s passing shot looked a formality but Panatta guessed right, flung himself headlong like a torpedo and hit a winning volley – again, off the frame. Whereupon Panatta crashed on to the court, the ground seemed to shiver and the stadium thundered with applause. That was the most amazing point I ever saw.
After that it was all profit. Even Bjorn Borg, champion in the two preceding years, could not cope with the imaginatively adventurous Panatta, who no longer recognized any distinction between the improbable and the inevitable.

Panatta’s arresting presence and artistically macho tennis also gave us memorable hours of pleasure when he was playing on grass, a surface hostile to the graces. And at Wimbledon in 1976, when he was playing Charlie Pasarell, the was an incident that told us much about the man. As Panatta was about to serve, a sparrow twittered away on the grass a few yards behind him. Distracted, Panatta gently olled a ball towards it, but the sparrow could not or would note move. So Panatta strolled back, picked up the fluffy chirper in a strong yet tender hand, and carefully took it across a spectator. Panatta had a way with birds. He had a way with tennis, too. The game was a means of expression, a form of communion with the ghosts of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Manolo Santana Roland Garros

From Love Thirty, three decades of champions – published in 1990

One of the craziest anomalies of the 1960s, a decade in which the great champions were bared from the great tournaments, concerned two Spaniards born within nine months of one another duing the Civil War. There was nothing to choose between their levels of performance. But Andres Gimeno turned professional in 1960 and played his best tennis in the proud, exclusive environment of Jack Kramer‘s tour. Towards the end of the 1960s, only Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall were better players.
But superficial historians may recall Gimeno only as the chap who, at the age of 34, won the 1972 French championship from an unusually modest bunch of challengers. By contrast Santana stayed in the ‘shamateur’ ranks, picked up an impressive array of Grand Slam titles, had a wonderful Davis Cup record, became a national hero, and captivated everybody in sight. So Santana received far more publicity and achieved a bigger reputation, except among the cognoscenti. Santana played no better than Gimeno did but had the more spectacular game, the more crowd-pleasing court presence, and probably a greater depth of competitive self-belief.

First a word about Gimeno, who was Santana’s Davis Cup teammate from 1958 to 1960 and 1972-1973, winning 17 out of 22 singles and breaking even in ten doubles. Gimeno was 6ft 1 1/2in tall but looked even bigger because he was straight-backed, held his head high, and had a tiptoed style that suggested he was wary of damaging the court. His bearing was patrician, his manner courteous, his game elegant. Gimeno stroked the ball with the teasing flourish one associates with the bull-fighting breed. The forehand was his stronger flank and although it was sometimes said his backhand couldn’t break an egg, he placed the shot shrewdly.
Gimeno had a sure touch and made effective use of the lob. There was a purpose behind every shot he played and his game was as tidy in detail as it was sound in conception. But he had nothing that could really hurt his opponents and on big occasions he tended to be too highly strung, too diffident, to do himself complete justice. Gentleman that he was, Gimeno may have had too much respect for the likes of Laver and Rosewall.

Would Santana have done any better in that company? One doubts it. He turned down a professional offer because he considered he could more tournaments and more prestige, make more money, and have a more congenial lifestyle by remaining in the ‘shamateur’ ranks. There came a time when Santana and Roy Emerson, as the biggest fish in a thinly stocked pool, could command $1,000 to $1,500 a week. They had no illusion. They knew that they would be smaller fish in the professional pool. An embarrassing decision was forced upon them and they chose the course that suited their circumstances and their natures. It worked out pretty well for them and it worked out pretty well for Spain, too. By winning two Grand Slam titles on clay and two on grass, and twice guiding his country to the Davis Cup challenge round, Santana did even more for Spanish tennis (and the nation’s sporting reputation in general) than Severiano Ballesteros was to achieve via golf.[…]

Santana was the Ilie Nastase of the 1960s: less of an athlete, true but more disciplined in his conduct and his match-play, and in the same class when it came to artistic wizardry. An example of the shots they had in common what that rare flower, the chipped forehand, which both played with such facility that they might have been picking daisies. The joyous feature of their tennis was a common ability to mask their intentions. Their dextrous powers of deception were such that they consistently pulled off the tennis equivalent of the three-card trick.

Santana used every hue in the box during the 1961 French championships, in which he beat the top three seeds – Roy Emerson, Rod Laver and Nicola Pietrangeli – to win his (and Spain’s) first major championship. Santana beat Laver 3-6 6-2 4-6 6-4 6-0. Laver led 4-1 in the fourth set but, emmeshed in a beautiful network of shot-making, could not win another game. In the final, Santana beat a kindred spirit, Pietrangeli, by 4-6 6-1 3-6 6-0 6-2. It was a sunny afternoon and the arena was as much an artists’ studio as a tennis stadium. Each man in turn stepped up to the canvas while the other was, so to speak, taking time off to mix his colours. The vast assembly could hardly believe their luck. Ultimately Pietrangeli, champion in the two previous years, had to admit that he was the second best. […]

They met again in the 1964 final but by that time Santana’s star had waxed and Pietrangeli’s was beginning to wane. On clay, Santana had proved all he needed to prove. So he concentrated his attention on the grass-court bastions: and had luck on his side in that, at Forest Hills and Wimbledon in turn, the most fancied contenders never turned his path. At Forest Hills he played only two seeds, Arthur Ashe (5th) and Cliff Drysdale (8th), and at Wimbledon he played only one, Dennis Ralston (6th). Never mind. Santana beat everybody he had to beat. He had conquered the ‘shamateur’ world on the two extremes of clay and grass.

There was an engaging but frustrating appendix to the years of glory. In the 1969 French championships Santana and Gimeno, both 31, clashed after a nine-year beak. It was Madrid vs Barcelona plus, for watching players, a leftover battle between the now united ‘shamateur’ and professional armies. For two sets, Gimeno was too nervous to play his best tennis, whereas Santana’s shot making had a subtle splendor about it. Then Gimeno settled down and in the stress of combat santana pulled a groin muscle and eventually had to retire. Gimeno won 4-6 2-6 6-4 6-4 1-0.

Santana and Gimeno had explored different avenues in their pursuit of fame and fortune. Their joint achievement was to lift Spanish tennis to a level it had never reached before: a level that was consolidated by Manuel Orantes and to some extent Jose Higueras. Orantes was runner-up for the 1974 French title and in 1975 he won the first of the three US Open contested on a gritty, loose-top surface.
That was a memorable triumph for two reasons. In a semi-final Vilas led Orantes by 6-4 6-1 2-6 5-0 and had five match points. Orantes won, but he was up half the night because he could not tourn off the bathroom tap and had to find a plumber. Then he went back on court and, in the final, gave Jimmy Connors a lesson in the craft of clay-court tennis.

By Mauro Cappiello

At the very last moment, someone must have told Mayor Gianni Alemanno that the Trevi Fountain was not the best location for the draw ceremony of the “Internazionali”, the Rome Masters that will start tomorrow. With all the tourists of a Saturday morning and the people come for tennis, that little square would have risked an explosion. That’s why the event was moved to the Maxxi, the Museum of Arts of the 21st century, which is not very far from the Olympic Stadium and the Foro Italico. Needless to say, the setting was not as suggestive as last year, when a lot more people were attracted by the Spanish Steps, a big media promotion and also by Andy Murray and Ana Ivanovic.

The other Serb Jelena Jankovic, twice a champion here in Rome, was the only international star this year, even though, due to their early exits in Madrid, super champions like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were already in Rome. She arrived at the museum carried by a double-decker city sightseeing bus, along with the journalists and the other players Andreas Seppi, Fabio Fognini, Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci. Italian Tennis Federation president Angelo Binaghi and ever-lasting local heroes of the last century Nicola Pietrangeli and Lea Pericoli were also there.

Roberta Vinci, Flavia Pennetta, Jelena Jankovic, Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi

Jelena Jankovic

Right from Jelena’s hands came off the news that the organizers were not hoping for. The two best ranked Italian players, Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini, will meet in the first round, just like in Monte Carlo. This time, the winner will play Rafael Nadal… At least we’ll have a packed Centre Court in the first or second day of the tournament, as noticed by Massimo Caputi, master of the ceremony and media officer at the Italian Tennis Federation.

Andreas Seppi

Actually, there was no need for an Italian “derby” in the early days to sell tickets, because the Centre Court and the Supertennis Arena (the new 4000 seat stadium, inaugurated last year) are already sold out, in spite of an aggressive policy by the Federation that has seen the tickets more than double their price since the tournament has been turned into a combined event.

It must be said that the Rome Masters has grown a lot in reputation, compared to the 90’s and the early 2000’s. Some top players skip Monte Carlo and some have criticized Madrid (especially last year), but nobody wants to miss Rome, the last big tune-up event before the French Open and the more probative one, because the conditions of play are very similar to those in Paris. A new free TV channel, Supertennis, owned by the Italian Federation, broadcasts the entire women’s tournament and that contributed to make the event more popular among the young generations.

Roberta Vinci

Andreas Seppi

That’s also why people are willing to pay 50 euros for a Thursday daily session ticket on the Center Court “Tribuna Internazionale Sud” booked via Internet, while they could have that same ticket at the tournament office at the entrance for 20 euros until some years ago, when the event was held over two weeks and the Stadium was not yet “one of the best for tennis”, as some players praised it.
But if you’re looking for that ticket now, your only chance is eBay or to find someone who sells it before the gates. Don’t expect a lower price, though…
Else, you can still find tickets for the grounds, which are always the best place to have a closer view of the players and take better pictures. If you are lucky enough, you can see the big champions practice and even speak some words with them.

More pics of this year’s draw on Flickr. Enjoy some pics and video of Rome Masters 2012 draw ceremony.

After a week filled with polemics and surprising upsets, Djokovic, Nadal and co are happy to leave Madrid’s blue clay for the red clay of the Foro Italico in Rome.

Check out some pics and video of the draw ceremony which took place at one of Rome’s most popular tourist sites, the Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna). Attending the ceremony: former Italian players Nicola Pietrangeli, Lea Pericoli, but also Francesca Schiavone, Flavia Pennetta, Ana Ivanovic, Andy Murray and Fabio Fognini.

Nicola Pietrangeli:

Rome Masters draw ceremony: Nicola Pietrangeli

Rome Masters draw ceremony: Nicola Pietrangeli

Francesca Schiavone:

Rome Masters draw ceremony: Francesca Schiavone

Rome Masters draw ceremony: Francesca Schiavone

Flavia Pennetta:

Rome Masters draw ceremony: Flavia Pennetta

Thanks a lot to Mauro, webmaster of STE Fans, dedicated to the one and only Stefan Edberg.