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April 25 • 04:03
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When Unlikely Grand Slam Finalists Lose, Many Never Get Back

August 25, 2016 | 10:28 AM

Roberta Vinci's upset of Serena Williams in the United States Open semifinals last year sent shock waves through tennis by slamming the door on Williams's Grand Slam bid.

It also catapulted Vinci, then ranked No. 43 and better known for doubles success, into one of the most unusual Grand Slam finals in the Open era.

Vinci, 32, met her Italian countrywoman and longtime friend Flavia Pennetta, 33 and seeded 26th. Each was playing in her first Grand Slam singles final.

Pennetta won and announced after the match that she would retire at the end of the season.

Vinci has risen to No. 8 in the rankings, but it may take another magical run at a major to avoid ending up like other unlikely Grand Slam finalists, including Martin Verkerk (2003 French Open), Mikael Pernfors (1986 French Open), Sharon Walsh (1979 Australian Open) and Steve Denton (1981 and '82 Australian Open).

They each had breakout Grand Slam performances that were not, for the most part, backed up by subsequent success. Their overall records suggested that they had little business being in a major final. They took advantage of circumstance and rose to the occasion.

"It was lucky," said Vinci, a five-time Grand Slam champion in doubles. "I took my chance and I played a great U.S. Open."

Vinci has failed to advance past the third round at any of the three majors this season, which is in line with her career results. Her best showing at a Grand Slam tournament before losing in last year's final was back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in New York in 2012 and 2013.

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Douglas Robson International NY Time

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