The Serena Williams pursuit of a tennis Grand Slam ended here Friday in the semifinals, and at the hands of a 300-1 longshot, doubles specialist, slice-and-dice, wisp of an Italian woman named Roberta Vinci.
She was unseeded and unappreciated coming into the match and brought with her no expectations of anything other than a 6-2, 6-2 match.
Instead, her victory was a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 stunner that will quickly bring mention as one of the biggest sports upsets of all time. Any place, any decade, any century.
Vinci was ranked 43rd coming in. Williams had won the last four majors, had only been beaten twice in 55 matches this year, and had been No. 1 for as long as anybody can remember.
Coming in, this was Ohio State versus Ohio Wesleyan in college football.
Vinci made two pressure-packed half volleys in the final game that will make doubles players everywhere proud. She won with a half volley on match point.
When it ended, and she was interviewed by ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi at Center Court of the packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, she was an entertaining delight, even for a U.S. crowd that had come with the expectation of seeing the penultimate step to history.
“I’m sorry, American people,” Vinci said. “Sorry for Serena, for the Grand Slam. But today is my day.”
Rinaldi followed up brightly.
“What will make this real?” he asked.
Vinci paused, smiled and said, “Ask another question.”
The place rocked with laughter.
Earlier, Rinaldi had asked her what she thought waking up Friday morning about whether she could win.
“No,” Vinci said.
Williams ran through the first set as it was expected she would run through the match, winning , 6-2.
But Vinci’s keep-the-ball-in-place approach, with slices and off-speed offerings, began to drive Williams more and more crazy.
Williams took a few quick questions afterward in the interview room and started with: “I don’t want to talk about how disappointing this is to me. If you have any others questions, I’m open to that.”
Vinci will play another Italian, Flavia Pennetta, in Saturday’s final. Pennetta, also an underdog in her match against No. 2 Simona Halep, won, 6-1, 6-3.
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