Monday, May 14, 2018

Arrivederci, Roberta

Knowing that a player is about to retire doesn’t make it any easier for us to say goodbye. Such is the case with Roberta Vinci, the second of the Four Fighting Italians to leave the tour. Vinci’s farewell took place in Rome today, when she was defeated in the first round by Alex Krunic. But she had been warning us about it for some time.

A spirited purveyor of stylish (my favorite kind) tennis, and a stand-out in both singles and doubles, Vinci knew how to turn her racket into a magic wand. At the very least, she was always entertaining, and at her best—especially in doubles competition—she was lethal.

Vinci’s WTA record is impressive. She won 10 singles titles and 25 doubles titles, five of which were majors, and all of which she won with Sara Errani. Vinci also holds a career Grand Slam in doubles. Her highest singles ranking was number 7 in the world, and she held the number 1 spot in doubles for  a total of 110 weeks.

Vinci also holds the distinction of being the oldest woman on the tour to make her debut in the top 10. The tour’s trend toward success among veterans was reflected nicely by the Italian when she won her biggest singles trophy at the premier tournament in St. Petersburg in 2016.

The five-foot, four-inch Italian made world headlines in 2015 when she defeated Serena Williams in the semifinals of the U.S. Open, ending Williams’ quest for the Grand Slam. Vinci was the oldest player to ever reach a major semifinal (and final). She lost the title to fellow Fighting Italian Flavia Pennetta, and ended the year ranked number 15 in the world.

As impressive as all of these achievements are, however, Vinci’s greatest contribution to tennis (in this writer’s opinion) was her absolutely sterling performance in Fed Cup competition. Vinci, Errani, Pennetta, and Francesca Schiavone took Italy to the Fed Cup title in 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2013.

For a very long time, Vinci held an astounding record: She won all 18 of her Fed Cup doubles rubbers (playing with nine different partners). She almost retired with a perfect record, too, but in 2015, Errani and Vinci were defeated by Kiki Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia in the 2015 Fed Cup opening tie. It was a sad moment, but Vinci nevertheless leaves with the longest undefeated streak in the history of Fed Cup.

The Italian's old-school "slice and dice" tennis put the hurt on a lot of players. It was always a joy to watch her play, and especially on a clay court. In every tournament she played, Vinci embodied the "Fighting Italian" spirit.

"I'm really proud of my tennis, myself and my career," Vinci said as she departed the tour. As well she should be. She will be missed.


Unknown said...

Always enjoyed watching her play, especially doubles.

Anonymous said...

I doubt she is your "cup of tea", but since I think you are the ultimate expert on women's tennis, do you have any news on Fran?

Diane said...

Same here, Debra.

Anon: Fran is very much my cup of tea! She has appeared in this blog for years as a master of both style and Fighting Italian spirit. Her French Open win is one of my top favorite major wins ever. I haven't heard anything lately, but surely, retirement has to come soon. I was expecting her to retire in Rome, but maybe that was never her plan, or maybe that was destined to be Roberta's ceremony. (And thanks for the compliment, but I don't think I know that much.)

Anonymous said...

I love being wrong, when it doesn't hurt anyone. Thanks for the correction.

There are two tennis players who've captured my imagination because they seem to defy gravity; Fran, and Amanda Coetzer--Milchan

I hope we get a great French Open. I hope Fran gets some sort of WC.

Diane said...

I hope she does, too. And The Little Assassin was something to behold :)