NEW YORK - FOR Flavia Pennetta, summing up her tumultuous, shocking, fascinating and heartwarming US Open triumph was easily described in a single word: Perfect.
Pennetta, the oldest maiden Grand Slam finalist in the Open era, became the first Italian to win the US Open women's crown and did so on Saturday with an efficient 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 victory over childhood friend and compatriot Roberta Vinci.
Before accepting the trophy and US$3.3 million (S$4.7 million) for the win that easily marked the greatest triumph of her career, the 33-year-old announced her retirement.
"My life is perfect," she said when asked how she would look back at the championship.
"This one was my last US Open match and I couldn't think to finish in a better way."
Two weeks ago, no one could have predicted a final between the 26th-ranked Pennetta, then rated a 150-1 outsider, and the 43rd-ranked Vinci, an even more unfancied 300-1.
However, the pair, who shared a flat in Rome for four years, refused to be swayed by the odds and fought their way through to the most unlikely title showdown that put Italy firmly in the spotlight of New York's gaze.
Pennetta, engaged to fellow Italian tennis player Fabio Fognini, said she would play to the end of this season, including tournaments in Wuhan, Beijing, and possibly the elite eight-woman WTA Finals in Singapore.
Having battled injury on a regular basis in recent years, she said she made the decision to call time on her career at last month's Toronto event.
"Sometimes, it's getting hard for me to compete. This is the important point," she explained. "When you are in the court, when you have to play 24 weeks in the year, you have to fight every week.
"And if you don't fight every week in the same way I did today, it's gonna be bad. I don't feel I have this power any more sometimes.
"So this is the perfect moment, I think. It was a really hard decision to make, but I'm really happy that I did it. I'm really happy and proud of myself."
Vinci, who had miraculously overcome top-seeded world No. 1 Serena Williams with a stunning semi-final victory that crushed the American's dream of completing a calendar Grand Slam, said: "I'm so happy that I reached the final. (To play) against Flavia is strange, but I'm really happy, yeah, even when I lost."