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Of broken hearts and second chances: Flavia Pennetta thanks Moya for Grand Slam success

THE FIRST ITALIAN tennis player to break into the Top 10, just-retired Flavia Pennetta has had her share of ups and downs in a career spanning 15 years of professional tennis. Yet, it is her tryst with a heartbreak that taught her the most important lesson of her life. 

For a sportsperson amidst one of their better seasons, injuries are the biggest obstacle. The US Open champion's recurring wrist injuries and the diagnosis of Typhus -- a bacterial disease in her teens were the primary reasons for her fluctuating career graph. 

However, the 33-year old was dealt a major heartache in 1998, when she was contemplating retirement in a bid to start a family with beau Carlos Moya. The Spaniard was known to be involved in a secret relationship, which deeply affected Pennetta back then.

“I have to thank him for what he did, because maybe my life would have been completely different! At this point, after so many years I have to say thank you to Carlos for everything because if all these things didn’t happen, I’d never be here, and never be a champion of a Grand Slam,” she said in an interview with The Indian Express.

But everyone deserves a second chance, both on and off the court. Pennetta, who is now retired from competitive tennis, is engaged to fellow Italian player Fabio Fognini, and is often seen cheering at courtside for her fiance, whose on-court temper tantrums are known to all. 

In her final Grand Slam appearance, Pennetta won the US Open, and had seen more success at Flushing Meadows than in any other tournament. 

"Every player has some place where they do well. Maybe we feel good and comfortable at the place. New York is crowded, but I feel nice here. If I have to travel to a place in a car for an hour there, I don’t mind. But if I do the same at some other place, I get so pissed. So it’s just some place that where you arrive, you just feel good,” she recalled.

Though, nothing came easy. Before triumphing in New York, Pennetta had to deal with plenty of self-doubt, loneliness and the fear of losing. Though, she credited an amazing team for being by her side all the time.

“Sometimes I was depressed also, but you get depressed because you feel alone most of the time. It’s not just about tennis. If you win, it’s easy. But if you lose and you go to your room and you start to think about it, and your family is away. You feel alone. But I was always with a good team and that was important. Coaches Gavi Lupi, for 7 years, Salvador Navarro for the last 3 years and my physio Max, I worked with him for 8 years.” 

Pennetta had already successfully represented her country in the Fed Cup on four occasions in the past. But a Grand Slam victory was always going to be special. For the Italian, it was the missing piece of a puzzle that was now complete, which is why she was "happy" upon announcing retirement just minutes before winning the US Open, even though it left tennis fans in shock.

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