New York - Flavia Pennetta captured her first Grand Slam singles title at the US Open on Saturday and said she was happy to head into retirement.
The 33-year-old beat fellow Italian Roberta Vinci 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 to become the oldest first-time women's winner at a major.
She then stunned the 23,000 crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium by announcing her retirement, admitting she had made the decision to quit before the tournament began.
"Before I started this tournament one month ago, I took a big decision about my life," said the 26th seed.
"I decided that this is the way I would say goodbye to tennis. This is my last US Open and I couldn't think of finishing in a better way."
Playing in her 11th US Open, Pennetta said she was stunned to have gone so far in the competition.
"I'm really happy. I never thought I would get so far and never thought I would be a champion. This is one of my favorite tournaments, I enjoy playing here," she said of an event where she has consistently recorded her best results at the majors.
"It's a dream come true, and it's also nice to play with a friend of mine -- we have known each other since we were nine years old, we spend so much time together.
"We could write a book about our lives," added Pennetta after collecting the winner's cheque for $3.3 million.
It had been a dramatic US Open for Pennetta who had an earlier match interrupted by a drone crashing into the stadium.
World number one Serena Williams, who was knocked out by Vinci in the semi-finals, ending the American's dream of a calendar Grand Slam, tweeted her congratulations to Pennetta who had succeeded her as champion.
"@flavia_pennetta congrats I'm so happy you won. You deserved it. I am also happy for the rest of your life's journey. I will miss your smile," wrote Williams.
Vinci, the world number 43 and a year younger than her Fed Cup teammate, was unable to repeat the form that shattered Williams.
"It was tough, I passed the 24 hours with a lot of things on my mind," said Vinci who had shared a lunch table with Pennetta before the match.
"But I am really happy and happy for Flavia. It's tough to play against a player who you have known for a long time.
"I tried to play my best, but she played unbelievable and I have to say congratulations to her."
There was a stream of congratulations for Pennetta after her decision to quit.
"@flavia_pennetta No better time to retire- on top and a Champion!! Well done!!!!!," tweeted US tennis legend Jimmy Connors.
Austria's Tamira Paszek, a former Wimbledon quarter-finalist, hailed the Italian's personality.
"Always been one of the sweetest people on tour @flavia_pennetta enjoy this new chapter of your life," wrote Paszek.
Pennetta and boyfriend, Italian tour player Fabio Fognini, the man who knocked out Rafael Nadal, shared a kiss on court and in the corridors of the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
That had other players swooning.
"How sweet was it that Fabio flew back from europe to be with Flavia! And his reactions!!!! Priceless!" tweeted Puerto Rico's Monica Puig.