Few people gave Roberta Vinci any chance of taking down Serena Williams in their U.S.
Open semi-final on Friday, not even the unseeded Italian who conceded she had already booked an early flight home.
But instead of returning to Italy on Saturday the 32-year-old will return to Arthur Ashe Stadium court to face Flavia Pennetta in an improbable all-Italian U.S. Open final after pulling off one of the biggest shocks in tennis history.
“Maybe if yesterday you told me, ‘OK, tomorrow you can win against Serena,’ I say, ‘Come on.’ Yesterday I called my travel agency to say, OK, book me a flight, because you know,” said Vinci. “And now I have my final tomorrow. So it’s incredible.”
Vinci arrived at Flushing Meadows two weeks ago a 300-1 long-shot to win the year’s final grand slam and the Tale of the Tape for her match with Williams offered no hint of an upset.
Williams, a 21-times major winner chasing a rare sweep of the year’s four majors, entered the match having lost just twice all season and was riding a 33-match grand slam unbeaten streak.
In 43 previous grand slams, Vinci had never before been past the quarter-finals in singles. She had also yet to take a set off Williams in their four career meetings, including as recently as last month in Toronto.
Even Vinci did not fancy her odds and was preparing to pack her bags for a trip back to Taranto before pulling off the David v Goliath upset shocking in Williams 2-6 6-4 6-4.
Vinci, the 13th unseeded player to reach a grand slam final in the Open Era and only the third at the U.S. Open, could not hide her delight but also found time to spare a thought for Williams, who came two match wins short of becoming the fourth woman to sweep all four grand slam singles titles in one year.
“It’s like a dream,” said Vinci, who at 32 years, six months Vinci becomes the oldest first time grand slam finalist in the Open Era. “I’m really happy, but of course I’m a little bit really sad for Serena because she’s incredible player, number one, all the Grand Slams.
“I don’t know. It’s tough to explain my emotion right now. Maybe tomorrow morning I can tell you something, but now it’s amazing.
“It’s magic moment for me. You work so hard for a long time, and it’s incredible.”
It may have taken 18 years for Vinci to reach her first grand slam singles final but she has known major success having claimed a career doubles grand slam.
Still, she will have to face pressure that she did not have to deal with playing against the heavily favoured Williams.
“Will be a tough match for both tomorrow. I think a lot of pressure,” smiled Vinci. “But we know each other for a long time.
“But it’s a final. Come on. Enjoy. That’s it.”