The BNP Paribas Open crowned a new women’s champion on Sunday, welcoming Flavia Pennetta to its impressive honor roll. The 32-year-old Italian, who contemplated retirement a year ago in Indian Wells, defeated No. 2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-1 to win her most prestigious career title.
"I perfectly remember after the match with Francesca [Schiavone] last year, the day after I was in the garden running and talking with my physio, Max, almost crying because the feeling and everything was so bad," she said. "And now, after one year, we have the trophy. So he is happy also because we work so much for the injury and everything. So I think without him, without my coach, my family, maybe I was not here. I mean, I quit."
The 20th-seeded Pennetta, playing in her first final at a Premier Mandatory event, closed the opening set in 37 minutes with two breaks of serve. Radwanska managed to win just one more service game before receiving medical treatment for her left knee, and the Italian rolled through the final five games for the victory.
Pennetta, the tournament’s 18th different women’s champion, is the first Italian to win the title and also the lowest seed to triumph here. She was just the second player aged 30 and over to reach the women’s final, after Martina Navratilova, who did it twice.
She won her 10th WTA title and her first in 76 events, since her triumph four years ago in Marbella. She is projected the rise to a No. 12 ranking on Monday.
"After so many years so much work and everything, this is the moment I always waiting for, no?" said Pennetta. "And it's coming when you doesn't expect and everything, because in the beginning of the week I never expect to be the champion or to be in the final or semifinal. I was here and tried to play my best tennis, but just to realize. So for me it was something I was waiting since long time, and finally I have a good trophy in my hands."
Pennetta defeated four seeded players en route to the title, including top seed Li Na in the semi-finals. She also overcame two Americans, wild card Taylor Townsend and No. 17 seed Sloane Stephens, in matches that eclipsed the two-hour mark.
Radwanska, 25, was contesting her first BNP Paribas Open final and was looking to win her ninth Premier-level title and 14th overall.
"The disappointing feeling always comes first, especially when you really, really have ambition to win the tournament," she said. "Of course, still good two weeks. First final here. Big event. And still good result. But it's always disappointing that I really couldn't play my 100% today."