Sunday, March 16, 2014

Why does a 32-year-old Fighting Italian keep fighting?

Answer: Because she hasn't won Indian Wells yet.

Today was a huge day for Flavia Pennetta, aka Queen of Fed Cup, and creator of some of the most impressive comebacks on the tour. On at least three occasions that I can recall, Pennetta has had to stay out for months because of serious injury, and she had a hard time climbing back up the rankings, but she always figured out a way to do it. She also had a couple of very public personal issues that served to strengthen her immense fighting spirit.

The hard court-loving Italian had to have wrist surgery at the end of 2012. Because of her age, she considered retiring from professional tennis this time last year, and had she done so, she would have retired with a great career record. Pennetta was the first Italian woman to reach the top 10 in singles, and the first Italian to be number 1 in doubles, a distinction she held when she played doubles with Gisela Dulko.

Instead, Pennetta kept on fighting. In 2013, she reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open for the first time, and this year, she reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. Today, Flavia Pennetta won the BNP Paribas Open, a premier mandatory event. When she left the court after her 6-2, 6-1 victory over 2nd seed Agnieszka Radwanska, Fabio Fognini--who delayed his trip to Miami to support her--poured cold water all over his countrywoman, and it must have been the greatest cold water to ever shock her skin.

That's the good part of the story. There's also a sad part: Radwanska's knee, which has apparently been bothering her for a while, did everything but cause her to retire. It was obvious from early in the match that the Polish star's movement was inhibited. She used all of the medical timeouts she was permitted to use, and she played to the end, but the person on the other side of the court just wasn't Radwanska. And then the woman who is known for having almost no facial expression at any time cried with disappointment. She had a hard time giving her speech, but was helped by a very supportive and appreciative crowd.

I expected this to be a good match with a healthy Radwanska, and figured it could go either way (Pennetta beat Radwanska in Dubai earlier this year), despite a general expectation that the 2nd seed would win it. I was saddened to see Radwanska have to play a big final in that condition. However, no credit should be taken from Pennetta, who, after all, beat top seed Li Na to get into the final. Pennetta got off to a shaky start today, but then kept her mind on her own swings, and lobbed and dropped her opponent into submission.

When the rankings are published tomorrow, Pennetta--the 20th seed in Indian Wells--will be number 12 in the world.

Top seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai won the doubles title. In the final, they defeated 5th seeds Cara Black and Sania Mirza 7-6, 6-2. Hsieh and Peng are now 11-0 in finals.


bill said...

Great great win for Pennetta. I winced for Radwanska. One of the tougher things to do in sports is to speak publicly immediately after a loss and you are right, Diane, the crowd helped her through it.

Diane said...

The camera lingered on Flavia while Aga was struggling to speak. Picture of empathy--Flavia's been there.

Sabey said...

I am happy that Pennetta won but so, so sad for Radwanksa. It seems like she just cant catch a break.

sunny nine said...

it seems that radwanska keeps trying to catch a break when serena, vika and maria are not at the end of tournaments. she was public about saying how much she had wanted wimbledon, ao and now this. it took a lot to get past vika at the ao and i think her knee went through a lot making sure she got past halep (who beat her in an exhausting match in doha) and jj at indian wells. she had nothing left at the final. pennetta was consistent and patience with aga which others must do to win against aga.

Diane said...

I agree with everything you said, Sunny. I really think, at this point Aga can handle Maria, but the other two are more difficult (though she has to have some confidence about Vika now). Aga moves so much, in so many ways, that has to be hard on the limbs and feet. Same goes for Simona.