On a windy day at the Foro Italico, periodic clay storms weren’t the only things getting players’ eyes a little misty.
After play concluded on Court Pietrangeli for the day at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Flavia Pennetta got her well-deserved sendoff from the WTA Tour after announcing her retirement upon winning the US Open in September. Her last professional match at the WTA Finals in Singapore in October was met with very little fanfare, but the sendoff Pennetta received at her home event made the six-month wait well worth it.
Several of Pennetta’s WTA colleagues were in attendance, which included her compatriots Francesca Schiavone, Sara Errani, Karin Knapp, Roberta Vinci and beau Fabio Fognini — as well as Elena Vesnina, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Carla Suarez Navarro and Lucie Safarova.
Those who couldn’t make it out to Pietrangeli — including World No. 1 Serena Williams, who was in the midst of defeating Anna-Lena Friedsam on Court Centrale; Pennetta’s long-time doubles partner Gisela Dulko and Elena Dementieva — were featured in a tribute video played during the ceremony. The inclusion of Dementieva was particularly poignant, as Pennetta played a role — and got quite emotional — in the Russian’s own farewell ceremony at the WTA Championships in Doha in 2010. (The two also played doubles together often in 2005 and 2006, reaching the final of the 2005 US Open.)
A beloved character off the court on the WTA Tour, many players and others in tennis — including Salvador Navarro, the coach who took her to the US Open title and was working with Sabine Lisicki in Rome — also took to social media to give Pennetta their own send-off.
While Pennetta never had the success she might’ve wanted in Rome — she reached the quarterfinals twice in 13 career main draws and posted a 16-13 record — she certainly did her part for Italian tennis, even before her Cinderella run in New York last fall. She helped lead Italy to four Fed Cups, posting a 25-5 overall record — putting her second all-time in wins behind Schiavone, who currently has 26. She was the first Italian to crack the WTA Top 10 in singles in 2009, and was the first to be ranked No. 1 in doubles alongside Dulko after they won the WTA Finals in 2010 and the Australian Open in 2011.
While her trailblazing was largely overshadowed for a period by Schiavone’s 2010 triumph at Roland Garros, Errani’s runner-up finish there two years later and her success with Vinci as a doubles team, Pennetta made sure that her name returned to the front of her country’s history sporting books by winning the US Open and riding off into the sunset.
In case you missed the full ceremony, the WTA archived it in full on YouTube.
Get the tissues ready.
What’s your favorite Pennetta memory? Sound off in the comments!