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Rybakina Grabs Italian Open After Kalinina Retires Injured

2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina has served warning to the field at the French Open with a dominant run to the Italian Open title. The Kazakhstani will ascend to a career-high world No. 4 after her walkover victory over the injured Anhelina Kalinina. The Ukrainian had been on something of a fairytale run in Rome, but saw her dreams dashed when a persistent leg injury overcame her.

Elena Rybakina won the Italian Open title with a walkover victory against Anhelina Kalinina – Rybakina was leading 6-4 1-0 when Kalinina retired.

Kalinina was looking for her first career WTA title, in her second career final.

The 30th seed had won a string of upsets on the way to the final, beating 11th seed Veronika Kudermetova, 12th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, and 19th seed Madison Keys en route.

Kalinina got off to an excellent start, taking an early break to move into a 2-0 lead.

Midway through the set though, Rybakina broke back before taking another game on the Ukrainian’s serve to claim the set.

Kalinina was struggling on her heavily strapped left leg and, while she tried to push on for a second set, succumbed to her injury after losing the first game of the second set.

After the match, Kalinina was devastated and revealed that she had been playing injured.

She said: “I feel I’m at my physical limit. I felt the leg after the quarter-finals.”

The Ukrainian had absolute confidence in her decision to withdraw.

She explained: “(Quitting) was absolutely correct, even though emotions (told me) I want to play today. After I went off court, I almost fell in the locker room because the leg started cramping. (It was) the absolutely correct decision.”

Having impressed many neutrals with her performances in Rome, Kalinina admitted she still has much to learn.

She said: “I’m trying to focus on my tennis, on my game, what I have to improve. I have a lot of things to improve, I have a lot of work to do”
Having won Wimbledon last year, Rybakina’s bona fides on grass are beyond question but victory in Rome underlines her ability on clay, too.

Victory in Rome makes Rybakina just the sixth player to win a WTA or Masters title on every surface since 2009.

After the match, the Kazakhstani spoke about her flexibility.

She said: “With my game, I can play good on all the surfaces. It’s just for clay I need to be ready more physically and have a lot of preparation, which I don’t always have the time for after the hard-court season.”

Rybakina beat reigning champion Iga Swiatek (who also succumbed to injury) in the quarter-final and Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets in the semi-final.

Rybakina will be among the favourites to dethrone the Polish world No. 1 in Paris when the action gets underway at Roland Garros next week.

Speaking before Saturday’s final, Rybakina described her good relationship with Kalinina: “I know she’s a very good person. In fact, she used to work with my coach. We have a good relationship, I’ve always tried to encourage her, just like when I win she always supports me.”

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