In recent years, the Italian tennis players have accustomed to us very well. After decades in which the athletes of the peninsula struggled to overcome the first rounds of the major international competitions, in the space of a few seasons, we have seen our compatriots reach the top of the world. With impressive rhythms.
Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta have won a Slam tournament. Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci also reached the final. Not to mention the Fed Cup, double placings, and so on. All between 2010 and 2015, in an extraordinary five-year period for our tennis.
Now that magnificent generation is about to give way to younger girls, but this gives us the opportunity to take stock of the history of our tennis in a skirt.
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Who have been the greatest Italian tennis players of all time? And how do the big four of recent years compare with the best of the past, with those of the 70s, 80s, 90s? Or even more remote times?
Of course, answering such a question isn’t easy at all. Also because we do not always have adequate tools to make comparisons and rankings. Just think that the WTA  was only introduced in late 1975.
In any case, considering the performances in the various tournaments, it is not impossible to build an ideal quintet of the great Italian women’s tennis. And leave out, however, also some important names, which may be immediately behind the first ones.
So, before starting to see our five, let us report, at least quickly, the names of those who have not managed to enter the list. Champions who have made the history of this sport such as Silvana Lazzarino, Lucia Valerio, and Silvia Farina. And now let’s get started.
1. Annalisa Bossi
Let’s start with a tennis player who was actually Italian up to a certain point. In fact, Annalisa Bossi is not the birth name of this prodigious athlete who found herself playing between the 1930s and early 1950s.
Born in Dresden in 1915, her name was in fact Annelies Ullstein. She began playing tennis internationally in 1934 and shortly thereafter, in 1939, she married a Milanese colleague, Renato Bossi. She moved to Italy in the years of the Second World War, assumed citizenship, and began to defend the colors of our flag.
The war, which from 1940 also involved our country, however, interrupted its sporting growth. However, after the end of the conflict, he achieved his best results. In 1949, when theoretically his physical form was to begin the waning phase, he managed to do well in Paris, reaching the semifinal of Roland Garros. Started as seeded number 7, was eliminated in two sets by hostess Nelly Landry, already a finalist in a couple of previous editions.
However, this good performance allowed her to get noticed also by the international press. So much so that the prestigious British journalist Lance Tingay  placed her in eighth place in her ranking of the strongest active tennis players.
The German tennis player in Italy
Ullstein – who by now in Italy was known as Annalisa Bossi – did very well in Paris also in 1950, when she reached the quarter-finals again. And when Tingay put her in her top ten again, this time at number 9.
On the other hand, in that same 1950, he also obtained an important victory on Italian soil. In Rome, in fact, she won the Internazionali d’Italia, arousing great interest in the local press and making this sport even more popular in the female version. Unfortunately, however, those were also difficult years from a personal point of view. Her husband – with whom she had played some good mixed doubles races – died prematurely in 1947 in a plane crash. She then remarried one of the first tennis commentators, Giorgio Bellani. However, he too would have died prematurely, in 1969.
After years of silence, Ullstein has returned to the headlines recently, when the Italian tennis players that we will see how we’re able to equal and exceed her record at Roland Garros, more than fifty years later. The former player died in Milan in February 1915, at the age of 99.
2. Francesca Schiavone
After this leap into the past, we come to the present day. Because it is useless for us to turn around: our women’s tennis has never been as strong as in recent years. And the main champions of our history were all born after 1980.
The first, indeed, was born in that year. In fact, Francesca Schiavone reports that date on her identity card, as well as her hometown of Milan. Former Italian Under-18 champion, she began her professional career in 1998. In the early 2000s, he immediately proved that he had what it takes to aim high. In 2002, following good performances in Paris and Rome, she reached the 23rd position in the WTA ranking. But his climb of hers was certainly not destined to stop there.
In 2006, after years of hard work, he seemed to be one step away from entering the top ten. Thanks to the qualification for the round of 16 of the Australian Open he grabbed the 11th place in the ranking  and, by the return of post, with her teammates she won the Fed Cup.
The successes between 2009 and 2011
However, my career was far from its peak. In fact, between 2009 and 2011 the Milanese tennis player managed to achieve even more exciting results. This two-year golden period opened in 2009 with the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, at the time the highest step ever reached there by an Italian.
After the conquest of a couple of WTA titles, together with her companions, she won the second Fed Cup in her career in that same 2009. This allowed the Italian team to climb to the top of the world-ranking teams.
His absolute masterpiece, however, was the 2010 Roland Garros. In that tournament, she started from number 17 in the ranking, and therefore certainly not among the favorites. In her path, however, she eliminated important athletes such as Li Na and world number 3 Caroline Wozniacki, reaching the semifinals.
Here, after a good start, she was also helped by the withdrawal of her opponent, the Russian Elena Dementieva, and thus reached the final. In front of her was the Australian Samantha Stosur, against whom she had a negative history, but she managed to defeat her.
That was a historic victory, not only for Francesca Schiavone but for all of Italian tennis. No girl from our country had ever reached a Grand Slam final, and above all none of her had ever won it.
More generally, that victory allowed Schiavone to join a very small group of Italian tennis champions, formed at the time only by Nicola Pietrangeli (winner twice in Paris) and Adriano Panatta (also at Roland Garros). A group that today, thanks to other companies we will talk about, has fortunately expanded.
All this obviously led her to enter the top ten of the ranking, oscillating between sixth and eighth place. And 2010 ended with another Fed Cup, her third, grabbed in San Diego.
The endless game
Fighting and tenacious tennis player, Schiavone enchanted the world also in 2011, not only for the victories. In fact, in January of that year, at the Australian Open, she gave birth to a memorable meeting with Russian Svetlana Kuznecova. The match, which ended with a score of 6-4 1-6 16-14, is the longest in the history of women’s tennis, as it lasts 4 hours and 44 minutes.
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In that tournament, she was eliminated in the quarter-finals, but those good performances allowed her to rise again in the world rankings. She, therefore, reached position number 4, which is still the highest ever reached by an Italian tennis player (equaling that of Panatta in 1973).
She then sought an encore at Roland Garros and managed to reach the final of the prestigious competition, but this time she was beaten by Li Na in two sets. In the following years she still took some satisfaction in the doubles (in 2012 she reached the Wimbledon semifinal), but, thanks to her age, she was no longer able to replicate the successes of the past.
3. Flavia Pennetta
If Francesca Schiavone was the first Italian of every era to win a Grand Slam tournament, it is also true that her success fortunately has not remained an isolated case. In fact, in 2015 her record was equaled by compatriot Flavia Pennetta, who triumphed at Flushing Meadows in a historic all-Italian final.
But let’s go in order and start from the beginning. Flavia Pennetta was born in 1982 in Brindisi. She entered the tennis world at a very young age, initially achieving the best results in the doubles, a specialty that would have given her great satisfaction too.
He turned pro in 2000 and began the slow rise in the WTA rankings. In 2006, in the year in which the national team imposed itself in the Fed Cup, she was now among the top twenty players in the world, grabbing 16th place in singles and 14th in doubles.
In that year the Apulian tennis player also seemed to have found the best form and be ready for the definitive leap in quality. However, this jump did not arrive: in fact, 2007 started very badly due to the after-effects of an operation on her wrist, and only towards the end was she able to recover the lost points.
The ascent after injuries
The slow rapprochement with the top positions led her, in 2009, to finally enter the world’s top ten. The opportunity came from a series of very important victories. The Pennetta in fact scored 15 consecutive games (also against Marija Šarapova and Venus Williams), setting an Italian record.
She was also the first of our compatriots, since the ranking system was invented, to enter the top 10 in the world. Finally, in those years she created a formidable pair of doubles with Argentina’s Gisela Dulko who went up to position # 1 in this specialty. In this case, Flavia was the first Italian – both male and female – to reach this milestone.
After these important results, between 2011 and 2012, however, the Pennetta experienced a moment of great fogging. Various muscle problems and injuries kept her from being at her best, and at the same time, a series of unfortunate missed opportunities seemed to undermine her confidence in her means. However, it was mainly her back and wrist that bothered her.
Having crossed the threshold of thirty years and having in any case obtained excellent career results, the temptation was probably to step aside. In 2013, however, the Pennetta managed to overturn everything and return to play with the older ones.
The late hits: Indian Wells and the US Open
So he reached the semifinals at the US Open, after having eliminated Roberta Vinci in an all-Italian quarter, but there he lost to Viktoryja Azarenka. She made up for it the following year, however, in 2014, when she took a historic victory in Indian Wells by beating Agnieszka Radwańska in the final.
Finally, in 2015, he confirmed that he was at his highest level, surprisingly winning the US Open. Despite starting as the twenty-sixth seed, she managed to put together an excellent series of victories, through which she also eliminated the number 4 (Petra Kvitová) and number 2 (Simona Halep) of the world. In the final, she found her compatriot Roberta Vinci, who she overcame in two sets. That was her first Grand Slam victory and her second ever for an Italian. An even more important victory considering that Pennetta set the record for the oldest player to win a tournament of this type for the first time. .
He ended his career shortly after in Singapore, where he played the Masters, the first of his career in singles. She was eliminated from the tournament after her defeat to Maria Sharapova, which is also the last of her career.
4. Roberta Vinci
According to the WTA ranking, the currently strongest Italian tennis player in the world is Roberta Vinci. An athlete who perhaps, by age, has gone through the best of her times, but who continues to give battle and defend the goals achieved very well.
On the other hand, his successes are not just about today or recent times. The tennis player is in fact in the breach since the second half of the ’00s, and she has set several records, especially in the doubles.
Born in Taranto in 1983, she distinguished herself at a very young age in the various tournaments organized at the regional and national levels. On these occasions, she often paired with Flavia Pennetta, her “neighbor”, until she turned professional in 1999.
From a very young age, she was also able to impose herself in the double, at the beginning paired with Sandrine Testud. With her, he already reached the semifinals of Grand Slam tournaments such as Roland Garros and the US Open in 2001. However, she entered the top 50 of the singles only after a few years of apprenticeship, while she soon moved on to play doubles with Sara Errani, forming a couple destined for great fortunes.
2011, a magical year
The turning point in his career was 2011. In those months he managed to win three major circuit tournaments, climbing several positions in the WTA ranking. At the end of the year, she thus entered for the first time among the 20 best players in the world.
2012 saw it grow further, reaching the number 1 position in the double ranking. In that year – always paired with Sara Errani – the victories also came in Paris and New York, while in 2013 the two also won the Australian Open. Finally, in 2014 they would have triumphed again in Australia and ended the Grand Slam round by winning at Wimbledon as well.
In the singular, however, 2014 was not particularly lucky. A series of bad results also plunged her into the ranking. Extraordinarily, however, the following year she managed to recover and be extremely competitive again. She looked in shape at the 2015 US Open, reaching a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time.
The historic victory over Serena Williams
Here he achieved perhaps the most legendary feat of his career. In fact, she found herself facing Serena Williams, number one in the world and very launched towards the Grand Slam, as she had already won in Australia, France, and England.
THE FINAL AND THE LAST FEW YEARS
However, Vinci managed to win a comeback with a score of 2-6 6-4 6-4 in a memorable match. She thus reached her first important final but was defeated by Flavia Pennetta. However, the good period was confirmed the following year, when she reached the number 10 position in the world ranking for the first time in her career.
Also in virtue of these successes, he decided to extend his career. At first, he had in fact announced his retirement at the end of 2016, but he then postponed the decision to him after 2017.
5. Sara Errani
The youngest tennis player on our list is Sara Errani from Bologna, born in 1987. In her career, she has never won a Grand Slam tournament, but it is the Italian who, after Francesca Schiavone, has reached the top in the world ranking, reaching up to position number 5.
Already brought, from an early age, for tennis, at 12 she was sent to America by her parents for a year to pass at the Nick Bollettieri Academy .
Having turned pro, she slowly began to gain experience in various tournaments. From 2009 she also began to work in double with Roberta Vinci, with whom, as we have already said, she would have formed one of the most successful couples ever.
In their careers, the two have in fact won five Grand Slam tournaments (all once and the Australian Open twice), the Madrid Masters twice, and once, in 2012, the Internazionali d’Italia.
A career in the singles
The single was the first important success reached in 2012. In fact, he immediately reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, and shortly afterward he won a series of important WTA titles. However, the most important tournament of her year began when she takes the field in Paris.
For the first time, in fact, he managed to reach the semifinals first and then the final of a Grand Slam tournament. And she didn’t just do it in singles, as she became the first player in nearly ten years to reach the final match in both singles and doubles. In the final in Paris – which is still her most important milestone today – she faced Marija Šarapova but was defeated in two sets. In any case, her good performance in the tournament allowed her to rise in the ranking to position number 10.
Later in the year, he climbed to position number 9, and then, thanks to the US Open, he improved further in the world ranking by grabbing seventh place. Thanks to the semifinal won in Flushing Meadows, where she was however defeated by Serena Williams.
The magical year ended with sixth place in the ranking and participation in the Masters in both singles and doubles.
2013 and 2014, before the fall
2013 was a year in which successes came mainly in the double. In the single, in fact, the participation in the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open was disappointing. But he made up for it in Paris, in the tournament in which he was now at home, reaching the semifinal again.
There, after knocking out Agnieszka Radwańska in the quarterfinals, she clashed again with Serena Williams, who inflicted a clear defeat in two sets. She then went on to win the tournament by beating Marija Šarapova, the holder.
In that year, however, Errani also won her third Fed Cup and reached the semifinals at the Internazionali d’Italia. This last performance made her rise to the aforementioned 5th place in the ranking.
The tournament in Rome was, on the other hand, the main satisfaction of 2014 at the singles level. Starting as the tenth seeded, Errani played an excellent tournament by eliminating Li Na and Jelena Janković. In the final, however, she found herself again in front of Serena Williams, who also defeated her due to a half injury.
Finally, in 2015 and especially in 2016, the player went into a premature decline. In fact, problems with form and physical have brought her far from the top positions, so much so that she has dropped well beyond the hundredth position in the ranking. However, a change of coach did not seem to help her.
The letrozole issue
Finally, in 2017, she was found positive for doping control . The prohibited drug was letrozole, which however is not considered a doping drug for women and was also used by the mother of the same athlete, suffering from cancer. The tennis player’s defense was that she inadvertently ingested residues of the drug in the food prepared by her mother.
Her motivation was considered valid by the sports commission and her disqualification was considerably eased after two months. Obviously, however, the matter ended up in the newspapers, with image problems that did not help Sara to find the necessary tranquility.
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