Flavia’s career ends with loss to Sharapova

The colourful Flavia Pennetta, 33, announced her retirement last month, just moments after becoming the oldest first-time Grand Slam winner at the US Open in New York. The reigning US Open champion only needed to win a set against Sharapova to reach the semi-finals but after going a break up in the first set, she stuttered before losing 7-5, 6-1.

Maria Sharapova consoles Flavia Pennetta after the match.   -  Getty Images

Flavia Pennetta's brilliant late-career flourish was brought crashing to a halt by Maria Sharapova on Thursday as defeat by the Russian sent her out of the WTA Finals and into retirement.

The reigning US Open champion only needed to win a set against Sharapova to reach the semi-finals but after going a break up in the first set, she stuttered before losing 7-5, 6-1.

The colourful Pennetta, 33, announced her retirement last month, just moments after becoming the oldest first-time Grand Slam winner at the US Open in New York.

While tennis bids arrivederci to the Italian — apart from a possible appearance at next year's Olympics -- Sharapova marched into the semi-finals alongside Agnieszka Radwanska.

The resurgent Russian, who has roared back to form after months out with injury, paid tribute to Pennetta as the Italian walked without fanfare from the Singapore Indoor Stadium court.

"I've lost the last couple of times against Flavia," Sharapova said. "I know what a tough opponent and competitor she is and I just tried to get a little bit of my revenge before she's out of the game."

"It's sad to see such a great champion go," she said. "I'm so glad she got the Grand Slam."

Pennetta was in good company, as top seed Simona Halep's season also came to an end when she lost 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 to an inspired Radwanska, who finishes runner-up to Sharapova in Red Group.

The Pole survived a "crazy" first set, when she went a break down and recovered from 1-5 down in the tie-break, finally taking the set after a mesmerising rally.

And the second set was a lopsided affair as Radwanska played with renewed confidence and world number two Halep's energy and motivation fell off a cliff.

"I was done. No energy any more. I was tired. I felt that I lost the chance to win the first set and probably I lost the chance to win the match in that moment," the Romanian said afterwards.

The result was enough to guarantee Sharapova's spot in the semi-finals but she was not about to give Pennetta an easy ride and mixed up her power game with an array of drop shots that left the Italian scrambling.

Pennetta broke Sharapova in the first game but the Russian took it back to level the match at 4-4 and stayed ahead till wrapping up the set at 7-5 with a drive-volley.

Pennetta's head dropped and she was only to win one game in the second set, before a backhand to the net on the first match point ended her campaign and career on tour.

Sharapova, who had not completed a match since July when she arrived in Singapore, has now swept all three of her round-robin assignments after earlier beating Radwanska and Halep.

Pennetta was the only player at the top-eight season finale with a head-to-head advantage over Sharapova, winning the last three of their five meetings including Indian Wells this year.

"It's perfect to lose against her," Pennetta said after her 7-5, 6-1 defeat to Russia's Sharapova, who is back in convincing form after months out with injury.

"I don't know. I feel really good. I'm happy to have the chance to play this tournament. I think to have the last match against Maria was amazing," she said.

Pennetta, who turned professional in 2000, has 11 singles and 17 doubles titles to her name with career earnings of almost $14 million before Singapore.

Pennetta left the court without fanfare but she was cheerful when she met journalists after the match.

"Right now I feel like it's not my last match. I feel normal completely. I don't know why. Maybe in few days I will feel more the difference. Right now it's so far so good," she said to laughter.

But she admitted that lingering on court after her loss would have been emotional.

"I don't like drama and I don't like to cry, and I know if I was there I will cry. So why? No."

Pennetta said that after 15 years of professional tennis, she will miss the players who make the tour "like a family".

"I think also I will miss the competition. When you go on the court, the central court, it's something special," Pennetta added.

"But in the other way, I am really happy to start a new part of life, new things," said the girlfriend of men's world number 10 and fellow Italian Fabio Fognini.

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