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Elena Rybakina clinches Rome crown when Anhelina Kalinina stops with left leg injury
The Ukrainian was forced to quit suddenly early in the second set on a trying Saturday that saw the women's championship match begin more than four hours late.
Published May 20, 2023
By the time Elena Rybakina and Anhelina Kalinina stepped out for the women’s final at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, the hand on the clock at the Foro Italico was due to strike 11 p.m.
Multiple rain delays started and stopped the second men’s semifinal, and had Daniil Medvedev not finished off Stefanos Tsitsipas in two tight sets, there's no telling if the championship clash would have made it on court.
The question of whether the encounter should have gone on so late given the stakes and less-than-ideal conditions was exacerbated after the final ended with a premature finish. Rybakina led the Ukrainian, 6-4, 1-0, when Kalinina suddenly stopped, no longer able to push off her left leg.
"Not the way I want to finish this match. But, yeah, was good two weeks for me," Rybakina said in her press conference.
"(Today) wasn't easy. Was a really long day. In the beginning I was fine, like, waiting, waiting. Then after maybe four hours, it was really tough. But I was with my team, so we tried like to talk, to kind of entertain each other for a bit."
Contesting her second tour-level, Kalinina began positively by breaking the No. 7 seed. She maintained the advantage until the sixth game, when a late forehand swing resulted in her shot landing wide. Rybakina began to hit her stride with cleaner striking after piling up a slew of unforced errors in the early goings.
Serving at 4-5, 30-0, Kalinina slipped slightly when trying to anticipate Rybakina’s heavy ball-striking. She won the next point, but then dropped six of the next seven to see the set slip away from her grasp. Rybakina managed to finish in the green, offsetting 16 unforced errors with 17 winners to seize the lead.
After Rybakina held to open the second set, Kalinina played just one point on serve before telling the chair umpire, “I cannot step on the left leg.” There would be no further play beyond that moment, as Kalinina could only fight back tears in deciding that continuing further was not possible.
"I feel like I am at my physical limit today especially. I felt the leg after the Beatriz Haddad Maia match," Kalinina would tell press. "I pushed myself yesterday. I was able to do that."
Regarding whether a scenario of postponing the final until Sunday was discussed, Kalinina responded, "As I understood we don't have any other choice because tomorrow they have fully booked schedule. They kind of cannot put us tomorrow."
Rybakina also moved through an incomplete quarterfinal when Iga Swiatek cut their deciding set short with a thigh issue and played just seven games in the third round after an injury forced Anna Kalinskaya to abandon the match. The 23-year-old has now won a WTA 1000 title on two different surfaces this season, following her triumph at Indian Wells over Aryna Sabalenka in a rematch of January’s Australian Open final won by the Belarusian.
With Swiatek winning Stuttgart, Sabalenka tasting victory in Madrid and Rybakina emerging as the last woman standing in Rome, take your pick as the favorite to go all the way at Roland Garros.