INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - This was the one she was waiting for.
Flavia Pennetta, who almost quit the sport at this event 12 months ago, won the biggest title of her career in defeating an injured Agnieszka Radwanska, 62 61, in the final of the BNP Paribas Open Sunday.
Pennetta, seeded 20th, defeated four seeds higher than her including No.1 seed Na Li in the semifinals and No.2 seed Radwanska in the final. She reflected on the magnitude of the victory and what it meant to her career in her post-match interview.
"I think this one is after so many years so much work and everything, this is the moment I always waiting for, no? 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," Pennetta said.
The sport can be a blur for players competing in different tournaments on different continents week after week but you could tell this was extra special for the 32-year-old Italian. "So for me it was something I was waiting since long time, and finally I have a good trophy in my hands," Pennetta said. "After that (Grand Slams), this is one of the best tournaments in the world. It's mine today," she said smiling.
Pennetta will surge to No.12 in the world when the new rankings are released tomorrow, only two spots behind her career-best of No.10 set in August of 2009. Pennetta's stunning tournament was built upon consistency and patience, willing to take one more step to make one more ball.
In the opening game of the final Pennetta failed to convert a break point when she missed a backhand return down the line wide in the alley. She was soon in danger of falling behind 3-1 but saved a break point when she successfully challenged a backhand return of serve that landed just long.
She then got her first break of serve at 2-2, 15-40 in the opening set when she ripped a forehand return crosscourt and then a big forehand down the line that Radwanska hit in the net. Pennetta would roll to win 12 of the next 18 points and won the set with a first shot backhand down the line winner after a serve - a very similar winner to her match point against Li in the semifinals.
Radwanska won the opening game of the second set and held a break point on Pennetta's serve for a 2-0 lead but missed a forehand long and Pennetta would hold and win six straight games as her confidence grew and Radwanska's knee injury worsened.
Pennetta would finish the match with 20 winners including six forehand and six backhand, and won 84% (11/13) of all points coming forward to finish at the net.
Pennetta also reflected on almost giving up her tennis career at this event in 2013 after losing in the opening round, 75 61, to countrywoman Francesca Schiavone.
"I perfectly remember after the match with Francesca 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," Pennetta 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."
Tennis is like that. You never really know how far away you are from greatness.
Craig O'Shannessy (@BrainGameTennis) is the leading analyst for wtatennis.com throughout the 2014 season, utilizing SAP Data & Insights to uncover the patterns and percentages that dominate the game. Visit Craig's website at www.braingametennis.com for more expert strategy analysis.