Flavia Pennetta: Life and Career of the Italian Tennis Star

Flavia Pennetta is a former Italian tennis player who won a Grand Slam title both as a singles and doubles player. She is also the first ever Italian woman to become one of the top 10 singles players in the world. She also became the first ever Italian (man or woman) to be ranked number 1 in doubles in 2011. Her first ever Grand Slam singles title came during the 2015 US Open when she defeated her childhood friend Roberta Vinci in the first all-Italian Grand Slam final. Her highlights in doubles include winning the 2010 WTA Finals and the 2011 Australian Open with partner Gisela Dulko, and reaching the 2005 and 2014 US Open finals. She partnered with Elena Dementieva and Martina Hingis for those runs.

After winning the 2015 US Open, Pennetta announced she would retire at the end of the season. She then earned a spot in the WTA Finals for the first time, where she defeated eventual champion Agnieszka Radwańska in the round-robin stage, and retired with a top-ten ranking.  Flavia Pennetta defeated a lot of top ranked players throughout her career. For her great achievements in the field of Tennis, Flavia Pennetta was announced as a Knight of Order of Merit of the Republic on 24 January 2007 by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the incumbent President of Italy. Let’s take a look at her successful and influential career.

Flavia Pennetta: Career Highlights and Personal Life

When was Flavia Pennetta born?

Flavia Pennetta was born on February 25, 1982 in Brindisi to Oronzo and Concetta Pennetta. She has an older sister, Giorgia. 

How did Flavia Pennetta start playing tennis?

Pennetta was introduced to tennis at the age of five by her father. At age seventeen, she won the 1999 French Open in girls’ doubles with fellow Italian Roberta Vinci.Pennetta started playing on the ITF Women’s Circuit in 1997. The following year, she lost in the second round of her first qualifying tournament for a WTA Tour main draw, the Internazionali Femminili di Palermo. In 1999, Pennetta won two singles titles and two doubles titles on the ITF circuit. She was unsuccessful in her several attempts to qualify for WTA Tour main draws in 2000. The following year, she limited her play to the ITF circuit.

She played her first WTA Tour main-draw match at the Cellular South Cup in 2002, when she lost in the first round. She also lost in the first round in Palermo, but reached the second round of the Idea Prokom Open in Sopot. Her ranking reached the top 100 for the first time on 23 September 2002, when she reached No. 100.

She also reached the quarterfinals at the Canberra Women’s Classic, Copa Colsanitas, and Abierto Mexicano Telcel. She debuted in the main draws of all four Grand Slam tournaments. Her best result was the third round of the Roland Garros, where she defeated 21st-seeded American Lisa Raymond in the second round, before losing to Hungary’s Petra Mandula.

When did Flavia Pennetta crack the Top 30?

In Pennetta’s first event of the year, she reached the quarterfinals of the Brisbane International losing to Tatiana Golovin in three sets. She also lost in the first round of the Estoril Open and the third rounds of the Miami Masters and the French Open. She bounced back in the Wimbledon Championships by reaching the fourth round losing to Mary Pierce in straight sets and the semifinals of both the Internazionali di Modena and the Internazionali Femminili di Palermo which were held in Italy. She followed it up with losses to Japanese players Akiko Morigami in Acura Classic and Aiko Nakamura in the JPMorgan Chase Open. In the Rogers Cup she was crushed by eventual champion Kim Clijsters 6–0, 6–1. She also lost early in the China Open in the first round and the Kremlin Cup in the second round to eventual champion Mary Pierce. She ended the year ranked No. 23 in the world.

When did Flavia Pennetta crack the top 20?

Pennetta started the year by losing in the second round of the Mondial Australian Women’s Hardcourts in Gold Coast to Dinara Safina. Pennetta then reached the semifinals of the Moorilla Hobart International, only to lose to eventual champion Eleni Daniilidou. At the Australian Open, she defeated Dominika Cibulková in the first round but fell to the 30th-seeded Virginie Razzano in the second round. Pennetta then played for Italy’s Fed Cup team versus Spain. However, she lost in the first round of the Copa Colsanitas to Betina Jozami. Pennetta then won her second title of the year at the Acapulco Open, beating Alizé Cornet in the final.

As the 30th seed, Pennetta received a bye in the first round of the Pacific Life Open. She then defeated Kaia Kanepi in the second round, but was defeated by fellow Italian Francesca Schiavone in the third round. She also fell to defending champion Serena Williams at the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne in the third round. She then withdrew from her quarterfinal match against Medina Garrigues at the Internationaux de Strasbourg. At the French Open, Pennetta defeated 8th-seeded Venus Williams in the third round, before losing to Carla Suárez Navarro in the fourth round.

Pennetta lost in the first round of her first tournament on grass at the Ordina Open, to Sania Mirza. She then defeated Julia Vakulenko in the first round of Wimbledon, before losing to Ai Sugiyama in the second round. She then played at the Internazionali Femminili di Palermo and lost to eventual champion Sara Errani in the semifinals. Pennetta then lost in the final of the East West Bank Classic in Los Angeles to Dinara Safina. 

Pennetta played her first tournament of the year at the Moorilla Hobart International (actually it was at the Hyundai Hopman Cup), where she was the top seed. She defeated Shahar Pe’er in the first round and then fell to Magdaléna Rybáriková in the second round. Pennetta was the thirteenth seed at the Australian Open, where she lost in the third round to Anabel Medina Garrigues. Pennetta then played for Italy’s Fed Cup team in the Fed Cup World Group stage versus France. Italy won 5–0. She reached the final of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco for the sixth straight year but lost to Venus Williams in two sets. Returning to hard courts at the Monterrey Open, Pennetta lost to Barbora Záhlavová-Strýcová in the second round. She was the fifteenth seed at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the first Premier Mandatory event of the year, and lost in the fourth round to eventual runner-up Ana Ivanovic in a three-set match. Pennetta lost in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, another Premier Mandatory event, to Mauresmo.

Pennetta was seeded 12th in Toronto but lost to Virginie Razzano in the second round. At her next tournament at New Haven, she lost in the semifinals to Caroline Wozniacki. Pennetta started the US Open with a win over Edina Gallovits in two sets. In the second round, she double-bageled Sania Mirza 6–0, 6–0. She played Vera Zvonareva in the fourth round, and saved four match points at her serve at 5–6 in the second set; and then saved another two in the second set tie-break, before winning the final set to love. She was defeated by Serena Williams in the quarterfinals in straight sets. After the US Open, Pennetta lost again to Roberta Vinci in the first round of the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. 

At the China Open, she made the quarterfinal, losing to Zvonareva 5–7 in the third set. As the top seed at the Generali Ladies Linz tournament in Linz, Pennetta lost in the semifinals to 3rd seed Yanina Wickmayer in straight sets. In the following week, she was forced to retire with a knee injury in the opening round.

How did Flavia Pennetta slide out of the top 50?

Pennetta retired against Zheng Jie in the final of the ASB Classic. At the Australian Open, she lost to Nina Bratchikova in round 1. She then reached the second round at Doha and Dubai, losing on both occasions to Kateryna Bondarenko and Jelena Janković respectively. Pennetta then reached the final at Acapulco, where she lost to Sara Errani.

During the North American hard-court swing, Pennetta reached the third round at Indian Wells, losing to Agnieszka Radwańska. Then at the Sony Ericsson Open, she lost to wildcard Garbiñe Muguruza in the third round. At the Barcelona Open, Pennetta, the 5th seed, lost to Ukrainian Yuliya Beygelzimer in the second round. Unseeded at the Rome Masters, Pennetta reached the quarterfinals after defeating Maria Kirilenko, Sloane Stephens, and Petra Cetkovská. She then lost to Serena Williams. At the French Open, she reached the third round, where she lost to eventual quarterfinalist Angelique Kerber.

Pennetta kicked off the grass court season with a second-round appearance at the UNICEF Open, losing to Urszula Radwańska. At Wimbledon, she fell to Camila Giorgi in round 1. At the Olympics, Pennetta defeated Sorana Cîrstea and Tsvetana Pironkova before losing to Petra Kvitová in round 3. At Montreal, Pennetta lost to Chanelle Scheepers in the second round after receiving a first-round bye. Pennetta did not play the US Open due to injury. On August 27, 2012, Pennetta underwent surgical cleaning of her right wrist, performed by the doctor who has treated Rafael Nadal.

Pennetta returned to competition at the Copa Colsanitas in Colombia ranked 60th. She lost to Lara Arruabarrena in the second round. The following week, she fell to Lourdes Domínguez Lino in the first round at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel where she was finalist the year before. She then lost to Francesca Schiavone in the first round at Indian Wells. At the Sony Open Tennis, Pennetta defeated Johanna Larsson in round one before losing to world No. 1 Serena Williams.

The week before the French Open, Pennetta qualified for the Internationaux de Strasbourg and reached the semifinals where she lost to Lucie Hradecká. At the French Open, she lost to Kirsten Flipkens in the first round. Pennetta had a breakthrough at Wimbledon where she advanced to the fourth round for the first time in more than five years. She then went on to defeat Alizé Cornet in three sets before losing to Flipkens again. Pennetta then reached the semifinals at Båstad where she lost to Larsson.

During the US Open Series, Pennetta fell in the first round at the Southern California Open to Schiavone. At the Rogers Cup in Toronto, she defeated Urszula Radwańska in the first round before losing to Ana Ivanovic in the next round. The following week in Cincinnati, she lost to American Varvara Lepchenko in the first round. Pennetta was ranked 83rd entering the US Open and she reached her first Grand Slam singles semifinal, defeating higher-ranked opponents such as Sara Errani, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Simona Halep and Roberta Vinci in early rounds before succumbing to world No. 2 Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals.

In September, Pennetta reached the second round at Tokyo after defeating Daniela Hantuchová. She then lost to Caroline Wozniacki. At the China Open, she drew Ivanovic in the first round, and lost in straight sets. Pairing with Kristina Mladenovic, she won the doubles title, defeating Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai in the final.

How did Flavia Pennetta win her first ever Grand Slam title?

The 2015 season started slowly for Pennetta. During the Hopman Cup, she “bagelled” Serena Williams before ultimately losing the match. In the Australian Open she lost to compatriot Camila Giorgi in the first round, failing to defend her quarterfinalist points from 2014. In the Dubai premier event she reached the quarterfinals, where she lost to Caroline Wozniacki. As the defending champion at Indian Wells, she managed to reach the quarterfinals, beating Madison Brengle, Sam Stosur, and world No. 2 Maria Sharapova. At the Miami Open she continued this run, by defeating former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, before falling to Simona Halep in the round of 16 in straight sets despite leading 5–2 in the second set.

Pennetta had mixed results during the clay season. She made it to the quarterfinals in Marrakech, losing to eventual finalist Tímea Babos in three sets. She suffered early exits at both Madrid and Rome to Andrea Petkovic and Elina Svitolina respectively. Pennetta reached the fourth round of the French Open and matched her best ever performance at the tournament. She beat Carla Suárez Navarro for her second top 10 win before losing to Garbiñe Muguruza in straight sets.

Pennetta went winless during the grass season. She lost in Eastbourne to Svetlana Kuznetsova and at Wimbledon to Zarina Diyas.

In Toronto, Pennetta lost in the second round to Serena Williams in three sets. This was the first time since 2008 that Pennetta had won a set against Williams. At Cincinnati, Pennetta beat former top-ten player Dominika Cibulková before losing to newly crowned Toronto champion Belinda Bencic in straight sets. In New Haven, Pennetta lost in the first round to last year’s finalist, Magdaléna Rybáriková in three sets. Pennetta then played at the US Open as the 26th seed. In the quarterfinals, she came up against two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitová. Pennetta won the match in three sets, after having trailed 1–3 in the second set, to advance to her second US Open semifinal. She then defeated 2nd seed Simona Halep in straight sets to advance to her first Grand Slam final. Pennetta faced fellow-countrywoman Roberta Vinci in the first-ever all-Italian Grand Slam final in the Open Era. Pennetta won the match in straight sets, claiming her first ever US Open title and her first Grand Slam title. During her acceptance speech she announced her retirement. In an interview with Eurosport after the match, Pennetta clarified that she would play out the rest of the season.

When did Flavia Pennetta retire?

By virtue of winning the US Open, Pennetta returned to the top 10 for the first time since September 2009. In the weeks following the US Open, she attained a new career-high ranking of No. 6. She qualified for the WTA Finals in Singapore, where she was defeated in the round robin, losing against Halep and defeating Agnieszka Radwańska before going down to Maria Sharapova in the last professional singles match of her career.

What are some of Flavia Pennetta’s career achievements?

Pennetta retired having won 28 WTA titles in total, including the US Open in singles and Australian Open and WTA Finals in doubles, reaching No. 6 in the world in singles and No. 1 in the world in doubles, and winning the Fed Cup four times between 2006 and 2013.

Who is Flavia Pennetta’s tennis idol?

Flavia Pennetta was introduced to tennis at the age of five and idolized Monica Seles.

Who is Flavia Pennetta married to?

Pennetta previously dated Carlos Moyá. The two split in 2007, and she wrote of the traumatic breakup in her memoir Dritto al Cuore (Straight to the Heart).

Pennetta began dating compatriot ATP tennis player Fabio Fognini in early 2014. Pennetta got engaged to Fognini in 2015, and the two were married in Ostuni in June 2016. On 15 December 2016, they announced that Pennetta was pregnant with their first child. Pennetta gave birth to a baby boy on 19 May 2017, naming him Federico. On the 23rd of December 2019, their second child was born. 

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