Tennis: Retired Pennetta hints at Rio return but rules out doubles bid with boyfriend Fognini

Italy's Flavia Pennetta at the WTA Finals in Singapore on Oct 29, 2015.
Italy's Flavia Pennetta at the WTA Finals in Singapore on Oct 29, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

MILAN (AFP) - US Open champion Flavia Pennetta could delay retirement from tennis by playing at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but says she won't "risk" partnering boyfriend Fabio Fognini in the mixed doubles.

She defeated Roberta Vinci earlier this year in the first all-Italian Grand Slam final to claim the biggest win of her career, and then announced her retirement from the sport.

The 33-year-old right-hander supposedly ended her career two months ago with defeat by Maria Sharapova at the WTA Finals in Singapore.

But although she has been enjoying some time off in recent months, Pennetta hinted at participating at next summer's Olympics.

"Right now, I'm taking some time for myself, and if the desire to play returns, then I will always have time to go back on my decision," Pennetta said on the fringes of an Italian Olympic Committee (Coni) awards ceremony on Tuesday. "I'm not setting any time limits. Whether I go to Rio or not depends on how I feel. At the top level, if you're not in the mood to compete, the younger players will walk all over you."

But Pennetta, who won an Australian Open doubles title partnering Argentina's Gisela Dulko in 2011, said she would put her relationship with Fognini at risk if they teamed up in Rio.

"With Fabio, it's best to keep things in the private sphere," she said. "When you mix certain things together, you risk breaking them up sooner than expected."

Pennetta, who turned professional in 2000, has 11 singles and 17 doubles titles to her name.