5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Woman Who Beat Serena Williams

By Patricia Garcia

It seems Roberta Vinci was just as shocked as the rest of the world was when she beat Serena Williams on Friday afternoon in one of the greatest upsets in U.S. Open history. (Her post-match interview is quite endearing for her utter incredulity.) Calling the win "the best moment of my life," and apologizing "for the American people, for Serena, for the Grand Slam and everything," Vinci later said with a smile, "Today is my day. Sorry, guys." In anticipation of today's final match, in which the 32-year-old player will play fellow Italian Flavia Pennetta (who beat the number two-ranked Simona Halep in another US Open upset), here are five things you most likely do not know about Roberta Vinci.

1. Vinci was an unseeded player
The odds that Vinci, currently ranked in the WTA as No. 43, would beat Williams at the semifinal were 300 to one. Even more surprising: Until yesterday, Vinci had never reached a Grand Slam semifinal in her entire career, even though she had competed in 44 tournaments. The highest she has ever been ranked was No. 11, in June 2013.

2. She's won the U.S. Open before ... playing doubles
Even though Vinci has never cracked the top ten in the singles tennis rankings, for three years in a row she and doubles partner Sara Errani held the title of number one doubles players, winning several majors throughout the years, including the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the 2012 U.S. Open doubles final.

3. She had never won a single set against Serena
Before she beat Serena 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 at yesterday's semifinal, Vinci had lost every one of the four matches she had ever played against her — never winning even a single set against the world’s number-one player.

4. She had incredibly good luck
While there's no doubt Vinci played one of the most remarkable matches in tennis history yesterday, she did have a bit of luck on her way to the final. Early on, several seeded players, including Carla Suarez Navarro (No. 10) and Jelena Jankovic (No. 21), were taken out of the tournament by much lower ranked players, leaving Vinci to face easier opponents as she climbed her way to the final. Then, before her fourth-round match, opponent Eugenie Bouchard (No. 25) pulled out of the Open on account of a locker-room incident, leaving Vinci to defeat Kristina Mladenovic. “Maybe this was my tournament, I don’t know,” Vinci has said of her good fortune. "Sometimes it can happen."

5. She has a one-handed backhand
Vinci is one of three women in the Top 100 who still uses the rare one-handed backhand. (Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka are two others who still practice the old-school move.) The stroke, more style than strength, has become less popular in recent years. "The one-hander is so hard," Vinci has told The New York Times, "They play so strong now." Well, apparently, not strong enough.

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