Serena Williams was in pursuit of history. Not only had she lost just two matches in nine months, she was attempting to win the Calendar Grand Slam, a feat that had not been accomplished in 34 years. Battling through hardships, injuries and sicknesses, Williams won the first three Grand Slams of the season in Melbourne, Paris and London, and with the possibility of creating even more history, the pressure and spotlight was firmly on the 34-year-old.
After battling through a whole scale of emotions, the world number one was victorious against Vitalia Diatchenko, Kiki Bertens, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Madison Keys and sister Venus Williams, and was now just two matches away from the biggest feat of the decade. However, no one could anticipate what would happen next.
In the semi finals, Williams met unseeded Italian Roberta Vinci, best known for her crafty game and tricky backhand slice. Vinci was having a great summer. Having made the quarter finals of the Rogers Cup and the third round of the Connecticut Open - losing to Williams and Caroline Wozniacki respectively, Vinci was coming into the final Grand Slam of the season in some decent form. The draw had been kind to her too - the Italian didn’t have to face anyone ranked inside the top 20 until her semi final match against Williams. A great doubles player, Vinci had been unable to replicate the same success on a singles court, but things were finally starting to come together for the veteran in the Big Apple.
Williams had played Vinci four times and won all three matches without dropping a set, and looked to be on course for another straight sets victory when she came from a break down to take the opening set 6-2. However, the Italian was not willing to go down without a fight. Having fought so hard to get to this position, Vinci began to limit her number of unforced errors and stayed in as many rallies as possible with a nervy-looking Williams. Eventually, her efforts were rewarded as she got a decisive break at 3-3, which she would later capitalize on to serve out the second set 6-4.
In the opening stages of the final set, the world number one looked like she was shifting into a new gear, cutting down on her unforced errors and playing with more controlled aggression. Yet, Vinci was never rattled, breaking right back thanks to an untimely double fault from the racquet of Williams. The next few games were filled with tight, lengthy exchanges but one could just sense that the Italian was beginning to rattle the American with her well-rounded game, making a seemingly improbably upset look possible. As Williams’ grunts got louder, Vinci’s level seemed to get better and better.
With the help of exchanges like this, not only did Vinci break once more at 3-3, she captivated the crowd with her clever play:
Williams was not doing herself any favours either. Unforced errors continued to creep into her game at the most untimeliest of times, and the stress of it all seemed to get to the world number one, who had looked so self-assured for the entire tournament. With another wild backhand return, Vinci successfully consolidated the break to go up a 5-3 lead, saving two break points in the process. But, the question was... Could she close it out?
Williams did her part in making sure that her quest for a Calendar Grand Slam alive, holding to 15 to force Vinci to serve for the win of her life.
Looking seemingly undeterred by the occasion, Vinci stepped up to the plate and played four incredible points to hold at love, ending Williams’ quest for a Calendar Grand Slam with an emotional 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory. In front of an electric mid-afternoon New York crowd, the Italian had done the unthinkable - not only was the entire crowd in shock, but Vinci couldn’t even believe that she had won either.
"It's like a dream - I'm in the final, I beat Serena," she said in her on-court post-match interview. "For me, it's an amazing moment. It's incredible. I have so many things in my mind right now!"
"It was an incredible match. I lost the first set, but I still tried to stay aggressive. In the end, I was serving and it felt impossible, but I tried to stay focused and not think about the match or Serena's incredible play."
"It's the best moment of my life."