Mamma Mia! Pennetta wins U.S. Open, then retires

admin   •   September 13, 2015   •   2415

Flavia Pennetta of Italy (R) holds her U.S. Open Trophy next to compatriot Roberta Vinci during the award presentation ceremony following their women's singles final match at the U.S. Open Championships tennis tournament in New York, September 12, 2015. REUTERS/EDUARDO MUNOZ

Flavia Pennetta of Italy (R) holds her U.S. Open Trophy next to compatriot Roberta Vinci during the award presentation ceremony following their women’s singles final match at the U.S. Open Championships tennis tournament in New York, September 12, 2015.
REUTERS/EDUARDO MUNOZ

Flavia Pennetta won her first grand slam singles title over Roberta Vinci in an improbable all-Italian U.S. Open final on Saturday then added one more shock to a stunning fortnight by announcing her retirement.

With the 7-6(4) 6-2 win, the 33-year-old Pennetta becomes the fourth oldest grand slam winner in the Open Era and joins 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone as the only Italian women to win a major singles title.

But as the celebrations kicked into high gear, Pennetta dropped a bombshell that provided a dramatic finish to the year’s final grand slam and her career.

After embracing childhood friend and Fed Cup team mate Vinci at the net a smiling Pennetta stood at centre court during the trophy presentation and told a capacity crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium that included Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi that she would retire.

“This is the way I would like to say goodbye to tennis,” she said before hoisting the trophy and accepting the $3.3 million (£2.14 million) winner’s cheque. “I’m really happy. It’s what all the players seem to want to do, to go out with this big trophy.

“And so this one was my last match at the U.S. Open and I couldn’t think to finish a better way.”

Pennetta’s surprise announcement provided a jaw-dropping finish to a grand slam packed with surprises.

She said it was a decision she made a month ago when a grand slam triumph would have seemed improbable and suggested fate may have played a part in her grand slam goodbye.

“Maybe that is why I am here today,” Pennetta said while embracing the trophy. “I was trying to play every match like it was my last one. Trying to play best all the time.
“For me it is easy to practise and stay in this life but sometimes it is hard to compete.

“It will be a new life for me, I played tennis since I was young.”

BREATHTAKING UPSETS

The unlikely final was set up by breathtaking upsets as unseeded Vinci knocked off world number one Serena Williams in the semi-finals to end the 33-year-old American’s quest for a calendar year Grand Slam.

Pennetta’s path to the final included two huge hurdles which she cleared with confidence, taking down Czech fifth seed Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals and Romanian second seed Simona Halep in the semi-finals.

“Miracles can happen. Because I beat Serena, miracle,” said Vinci. “And then two Italians can reach the Grand Slam final, a miracle.”

While the all-Italian final was greeted by a big yawn in the Big Apple, Italy was gripped in tennis hysteria as the sport made front page headlines and convinced Renzi to drop his busy schedule and fly to New York.

Since Williams’s triumph at Wimbledon in July, the buildup to the U.S. Open had focussed almost entirely on the American’s bid to become just the fourth woman and first since 1988 to complete the calendar slam.

Her surprise semi-final exit took much of the buzz out of the tournament and triggered an immediate collapse in ticket prices for the women’s final.

According to ticket aggregator SeatGeek, the median price for tickets to the final on the secondary market had risen to more than $1,500 when Williams reached the semi-final but plunged below $500 following her loss on Friday.

The match between best friends and former doubles partners who first played each other when they were nine years old got off to a predictably cautious start for two players competing in their first grand slam final.

Showing signs of nerves, Pennetta and Vinci seemed content to battle from the baseline, trading early breaks as the first set went to tiebreak.

After winning the tiebreak and sensing the title was within her grasp, Pennetta broke Vinci at the first opportunity en route to 4-0 lead before clinching the match with a final service break.

“We spent so much time together, we moved to Rome together when we were 13-, 14-years-old and stayed in the same room for four years,” said Pennetta. “It is like a sister, it is so magical you have one of your best friends with you in this moment.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

Cornet forgiving but double standards remain over shirt changing

admin   •   August 31, 2018

 

Alize Cornet | Reuters

Women and men may receive equal pay for work at Grand Slams but a double standard that surfaced at the U.S. Open when Alize Cornet was slapped with a code violation for changing her shirt on the court continued to spark outrage over equality.

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) was in full damage control mode defusing a controversy that erupted on Tuesday after the Frenchwoman noticed she had put her shirt on backwards off the court during a heat break.

When she realized her mistake, Cornet walked towards the back of the court pulling off her top, briefly exposing her sports bra, before slipping it back on the right way round and drawing a code violation from umpire Christian Rask.

The decision to penalize Cornet triggered a social media storm with many people labeling the umpire’s decision as sexist.

Male players frequently change or remove their shirts between games and sometimes sit shirtless for extended periods of time in their chairs during changeovers.

Cornet said she was surprised to wake up on Wednesday to a full-blown controversy and attempted to downplay the incident.

While Cornet accepted the incident with good humor and grace others were not so quick to forgive.

Realizing it had stepped on a public relations landmine, the USTA was quick to issue a statement saying the code violation was wrong while the WTA leaped to Cornet’s defense, labeling the penalty unfair. — Reuters

Returning Federer coasts into Monte Carlo third round

admin   •   April 13, 2016

Tennis - Monte Carlo Masters - Monaco, 12/04/2016. Roger Federer of Switzerland plays a shot to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Tennis – Monte Carlo Masters – Monaco, 12/04/2016. Roger Federer of Switzerland plays a shot to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Former world number one Roger Federer returned from a 10-week layoff with a 6-3 6-4 second-round victory against Spain’s Guillermo Garcia Lopez at the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday.

The third-seeded Swiss had knee surgery on Feb. 3 and was forced to delay his scheduled comeback in Miami because of gastroenteritis.

Federer, who has failed all 12 attempts to win the first claycourt Masters of the season, was barely bothered by the world number 38. The only glitch he suffered came when he was broken as, leading 5-2 in the second set, he was serving to win.

He will next face either Germany’s Alexander Zverev or Spain’s Marcel Granollers, who was picked in the main draw after fellow Spaniard David Ferrer withdrew with a leg injury.

Back in Monte Carlo for the first time since 2013, world number two Andy Murray labored into the third round with a 6-2 4-6 6-3 defeat of France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

(Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Tennis star Sharapova faces suspension after failing drug test

admin   •   March 8, 2016

Maria Sharapova speaks to the media announcing a failed drug test after the Australian Open during a press conferencein Los Angeles, Califonia, March 7, 2016. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sharapova speaks to the media announcing a failed drug test after the Australian Open during a press conferencein Los Angeles, Califonia, March 7, 2016. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova, the highest-paid woman in sports, said on Monday that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open due to a substance she has been taking for 10 years for health issues.

The 28-year-old Sharapova, a five-time grand slam champion, will be provisionally suspended starting March 12, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said.

She is the seventh athlete in a month to test positive for meldonium, which is used to treat diabetes and low magnesium, and was only banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency as of Jan. 1.

“I made a huge mistake. I let my fans down and I let the sport down,” said Sharapova, a teenage tennis prodigy who became the third-youngest Wimbledon champion. “I take full responsibility for it.”

“I know that with this I face consequences and I don’t want to end my career this way. I really hope that I will be given another chance to play this game,” former world No.1 Sharapova told a news conference in a downtown Los Angeles hotel.

The ITF’s anti-doping program calls for a four-year suspension for a positive test, but that ban can be reduced in various circumstances, such as for first-time offences or if the player shows no significant fault or negligence. If a player bears no fault or negligence, there is no suspension.

According to Forbes, she earned $29.5 million in 2015, mostly from endorsements.

Sharapova said her family doctor had been giving her mildronate, which is also called meldonium, for 10 years after she frequently became sick, had irregular EKG results, a magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes.

“It is very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on WADA’s banned list and I had been legally taking the medicine. But on January the first, the rules have changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance.”

The World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA, declined to comment until ITF issues a final decision.

Meldonium is used to treat chest pain and heart attacks among other conditions, but some researchers have linked it to increased athletic performance and endurance. It is listed by WADA among its prohibited metabolic modulators, along with insulin, and some researchers say it can also help recovery.

It is not approved in the United States but is available in Russia, Latvia and other countries in that region. Over the past month, Russian cyclist Eduard Vorganov, Russian figure skater Ekaterina Bobrova and Ethiopia-born athletes Endeshaw Negesse and Abeba Aregawi and Ukraine biathletes Olga Abramova and Artem Tyshchenko have all tested positive for meldonium.

Sharapova is the most prominent tennis player to test positive for a banned substance in recent years.

Croatia’s Marin Cilic was banned for nine months in 2013 after testing positive for a prohibited stimulant, though the suspension was cut to four months on appeal.

Former No. 1 Swiss player Martina Hingis retired after receiving a two-year suspension for a positive cocaine test in 2007, though she denied taking the drug.

Last year, the sport banned U.S. player Wayne Odesnik for 15 years after his second doping violation, testing positive for steroids and other banned substances.

Sharapova is the biggest name in sport to test positive since New York Yankees baseball slugger Alex Rodriguez was banned for a year in 2013 after using performance-enhancing drugs and American cyclist Lance Armstrong was banned for life from racing in 2012 after a U.S. Anti-Doping investigation.

Sharapova, one of the most popular figures in global sports, has long been a favorite with her sponsors. Cosmetics maker Avon Products Inc (AVP.N) declined to comment on its endorsements. Nike Inc (NKE.N), the world’s largest footwear maker and another sponsor, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Steve Simon, CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, said in a statement he was saddened to hear the news.

“Maria (Sharapova) is a leader and I have always known her to be a woman of great integrity,” he said. “Nevertheless, as Maria acknowledged, it is every player’s responsibility to know what they put in their body and to know if it is permissible. The WTA will support the decisions reached through this process.”

The news came a day after Sharapova’s management team said she was going to make a “major announcement,” which had many speculating that she was going to announce her retirement from professional tennis.

Sharapova, who has struggled with a series of injuries in recent years, has not competed since she lost to Serena Williams in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January.

Renowned for her never-say-die approach, a gritty baseline game and high-decibel shrieking, Sharapova at 17 became the first Russian woman to win Wimbledon when she beat Serena Williams 6-1 6-4 in the 2004 final.

That victory also made her the third-youngest Wimbledon champion, behind only Lottie Dod and Martina Hingis, and the fourth-youngest grand slam winner in the open era after Hingis, Monica Seles and Tracy Austin.

(Additional reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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