Flavia Pennetta climbed the summit Saturday in Arthur Ashe Stadium, then she walked away. Minutes after claiming the first Grand Slam singles title of her 13-year career, the 33-year-old Italian announced that she was stepping away from the game, retiring on top.
In doing so, she joined some of the game’s greatest and most beloved figures in announcing their retirements or playing their final career matches on the US Open’s grand stage. Here’s a quick look at a few of the most memorable:
Chris Evert, 1989
Arguably the first great send-off at the US Open, Chris Evert walked away following an emotional on-court embrace with fellow American Zina Garrison, having lost to Garrison, 7-6, 6-2, in the quarterfinals. Evert had been the greatest US Open champion of the Open era, man or woman, winning the title in Flushing Meadows six times and reaching the semifinals a record 16 times in a row, from 1971 to 1986. But on this day, she simply waved to the crowd, put her arms around Garrison’s shoulders and walked off court, the fans on their feet in appreciation.
Pete Sampras, 2002
Sampras entered the 2002 US Open as the 17th seed, still respected by his peers but commonly believed to have his Grand Slam championship days behind him. He suffered a first-round loss at the French Open and fell in the second round at Wimbledon, lowering expectations, but over the course of two weeks in Flushing Meadows, Sampras regained his confidence and rediscovered his game. He buzzed through the draw, defeating No. 3 seed Tommy Haas and future champion Andy Roddick en route to the final, where he defeated longtime rival Andre Agassi in four sets for his fifth US Open title and 14th Grand Slam championship. It would be his final professional match, and a year later the American great would officially announce his retirement from the game.
Andre Agassi, 2006
In the second round, Andre Agassi had won arguably the match of the tournament, defeating Marcos Baghdatis in an epic five-setter that left the two-time champion in agony by match’s end, his troublesome back having been worn down by the long, grueling encounter. He had little left in the tank when he took on Benjamin Becker in the third round, but he fought gamely, falling in four sets. The standing-room-only crowd recognized his effort, giving him a thunderous ovation beforehand and afterward, silenced only when Agassi gave a post-match speech thanking the fans for their support and inspiration. “I was sitting there realizing that I was saying goodbye to everybody out there and they were saying goodbye to me,” Agassi said afterward. “It’s a necessary evil, but we were getting through it together. That felt amazing.” Agassi received a second standing ovation – this time from the players – when he entered the locker room after the match.
Flavia Pennetta, 2015
It was the most unlikely of championship runs. The 26th-ranked Pennetta, who entered the US Open sporting a losing record during the summer and having won just one WTA title since 2010, played the fortnight of her life, knocking off higher seeds and former champions on the way to her first Grand Slam singles final. There, she played a compatriot, fellow Italian veteran Roberta Vinci. Pennetta, however, was not overcome by the situation or the setting, playing her best tennis in the biggest moments to win her first Grand Slam singles title, 7-6, 6-2. As it turns out, it will also be her last. During the on-court ceremony after the match, Pennetta shocked the crowd by announcing her retirement from tennis – closing her Grand Slam career with its greatest triumph.