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Serena Williams' Grand Slam Quest Ends With Loss To Roberta Vinci


There will be no Grand Slam this year. In a stunning victory, Italian tennis player Roberta Vinci defeated Serena Williams today in three sets. Her victory ends a magical year for Williams who was one match away from playing for the first calendar Grand Slam victory since 1988 - a calendar Grand Slam - winning all four major tennis championships in the same calendar year.

This also means there will be an all Italian final in women's singles. NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman was at the match in Flushing Meadows, and he joins us now. Tom, Serena Williams was favorite going into the match. She'd won every previous meeting against Vinci. What happened today?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Robert, I hate to start this thing out with a cliche, but it's why you play the games. Three-hundred-to-one odds, even, you play the games, nd those were the odds against Roberta Vinci doing what she did today. And I'll quote Serena Williams here. She played out of her mind. She played the best match of her life. Certainly in the first set that she'd lost 6-2, there was the thinking that, OK, well, you know, everything is going according to plan.

But then, in the second set, she started winning points. And I think once she figured out that she could return Serena Williams' booming serve enough and get it in play, I think that gave her confidence. She was hitting deep. She was moving Serena all over the court. She has this kind of relic, this throwback slice backhand, and she used that a lot to bring Serena into the net. Then she'd lob over her head. She outplayed her, Robert. It's simple.

SIEGEL: After the match, Serena insisted to the media that she didn't feel pressure. Talk about her game today.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. And I should say she also said - the first question, of course - Serena how disappointed are you? And she said, I will not answer any questions about disappointment. She didn't play her greatest. She didn't play her worst. As I said, she was outplayed. She had more unforced errors - 40 - than she usually does. But a lot of her errors were caused by Vinci. And as it got deep into the third set, Serena knew, and everyone in Arthur Ashe Stadium knew, she was in the fight of her life. And there were a few points - type points, double faults that usually wouldn't happen. But you know, what do you expect? She is human. She did feel pressure even though she said she didn't.

SIEGEL: Vinci beat her in New York, in Queens. How did the crowd react to the Italian beating the American champ?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, I think stunned is the way to describe it. But there was warm applause because fans believed that they had seen a great match, which they did. It was a fantastic match. But then, you know, any kind of negativity that people might have had about this person who derailed Serena's quest was gone in her on-court interview. She was absolutely charming, starting with the very first question. The question was, this morning, what gave you belief that this was possible? And she simply said, no. No, (laughter) I never thought it was possible.

SIEGEL: She didn't think it was possible.

GOLDMAN: She didn't think it was possible at all.

SIEGEL: The women's final is tomorrow. It'll be Vinci and Flavia Pennetta, and it's the first all-Italian final in any major, men's or women's. What type of match should we expect?

GOLDMAN: I think it's going to be a really good match, actually. Pennetta is 33. Vinci is 32. They are experienced tennis players. They are both dogged competitors. They go for everything. They hit hard groundstrokes. I think it's going to be a very good match, and I will not make a prediction on who's going to win.

SIEGEL: OK. Thanks, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman talking to us from the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Flushing Meadows, Queens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on
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