U.S. Open 2015: Serena's grand slam hopes end

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U.S. Open 2015: Serena's grand slam hopes end

Post by onlyguy on Fri Sep 11, 2015 9:03 pm

Twenty six times, Serena Williams had
played a grand slam match in 2015. And
all 26 times she emerged triumphant. But in her 27th encounter, Williams
came unstuck against a stubborn Italian,
Roberta Vinci, who wasn't even seeded
at the U.S. Open. Vinci, best known for formerly being the
world's top-ranked doubles player,
stunned Williams 2-6 6-4 6-4 to end the
American's chances of completing the
calendar-year grand slam. Williams had toiled in quite a few of her
past grand slam tussles this year but
always found a way to win. Not against
the 43rd-ranked Vinci, though, who not
only overturned a set deficit but came
back from 2-0 down in the third. Prior to Friday, Vinci lost all four of their
head-to-heads without claiming a set. So, instead of Williams trying to emulate
Steffi Graf's achievement of 1988, it will
be an all Italian U.S. Open final Saturday
after Flavia Pennetta upset Simona
Halep 6-3 6-1 in Friday's first women's
semifinal. The fans who'll show up will thus be
watching history, just not the type they
were expecting. Pennetta and Vinci were born in the
same region in Italy, Puglia, and
Pennetta, too, is a former doubles No. 1,
but they possess completely different
styles. Pennetta is a power baseliner with a
forceful, dependable backhand, while
Vinci authors a wicked slice on the
backhand and likes to move forward. The slice and other parts of Vinci's game
worked to begin with but after she broke
for 2-1 in the first set, Williams found her
intensity and the outcome of the first
became predictable. When Williams fended off three straight
break points early in the second -- one
with a stunning, angled backhand
passing shot -- romping to the finish line
seemed like the inevitable conclusion. However, Vinci -- at nearly 33, the oldest
first-time women's grand slam
semifinalist in the Open Era -- was in no
hurry to exit center court. She broke for 3-2 and held for 5-3 after
Williams missed a crosscourt forehand
on break point with the court exposed.
Vinci saved another break point at 5-4
by smashing a forehand before taking
the set by forcing an error. Vinci was jubilant. Williams, meanwhile,
slammed her racket to the ground when
at her chair. Order appeared to be restored when
Williams grabbed the 2-0 lead in the
third; Vinci, though, rallied for 2-2. Williams looked close to tears but her
mood changed dramatically when she
crushed a backhand on the line in the
fifth game. Despite Vinci's resistance, no one would
have thought Williams would exit. After
all, she overcame health issues at the
Australian Open and French Open -- in
the latter, third sets were the norm -- and
then at Wimbledon, Williams was two points away from losing against Heather
Watson. The key game of the third, the one that
indeed proved decisive, came at 3-3. Williams struck 16 aces to go along with
only four double faults overall, but two
helped Vinci in that seventh game. Later
capping a stunning rally by hitting a
touch volley, Vinci implored the pro-
Williams crowd to show her some appreciation. They did. But they were less enthusiastic when
Vinci broke for 4-3. There was no Williams escape act
Friday, Vinci serving it out without
difficulty before raising her arms in the
air. Not since Wimbledon last year had
Williams tasted defeat at a major,
ousted back then by Alize Cornet. Like Vinci, Pennetta probably won't ever
want to leave New York. She has made
at least the quarterfinals in six of her last
seven visits, reaching one major
quarterfinal outside the Big Apple. Pennetta's form, by her own admission,
wasn't spectacular heading into the U.S.
Open. But the result against Halep came
one round after Pennetta sent two-time
Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova
packing. Halep lost her focus after failing to
convert break points in the third game,
with Pennetta breaking in the fourth and
never loosening her grip in the first set. The Romanian's revival in the second
set -- she led 3-1 -- ended in
unbelievable fashion, Pennetta
capturing 15 straight points to take a
stranglehold on the affair. No wonder Halep shook her head as she
exited the court and made her way to
the locker room. The tennis world was collectively
shaking its head in disbelief about two
hours later.

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