ROME -- No.47 Anhelina Kalinina advanced to the biggest semifinal of her career after defeating Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. Clocking in at 3 hours and 41 minutes, the match was the longest match of the 2023 Hologic WTA Tour season.
"It feels great, but I can't feel my body or my legs," Kalinina said after the win. "I think it was the longest match of my career. thanks to my coach and thanks to my fitness coach because this win is not my win. My part is 50 percent and 50 percent is my fitness coach."
Making just her second appearance in Rome, the 26-year-old Ukrainian has enjoyed a resurgent fortnight. En route to her first WTA 1000 semifinal, Kalinina has notched wins over former No.4 Sofia Kenin, 19th-seed Madison Keys and 12th-seed Haddad Maia. She is now 4-0 against Haddad Maia in her career.
Buoyed by her winning record against Haddad Maia, Kalinina raced out of the blocks to lead 5-2 in the first set. Haddad Maia took a medical timeout to address a left leg issue and Kalinina felt her own level drop. Taking a more aggressive approach to her baseline game, Haddad Maia pounced. The Brazilian reeled off four consecutive games before taking the opener in the tiebreak.
"I started really well and I think it was my weakness because I was a little bit relaxed," Kalinina said. "Beatriz started to play really great, stepping in, playing really aggressive, but I was just waiting after 5-2. I started aggressive but I started to lose my game. I'm sorry but if you're starting to push the ball, it's not going to work."
3 - The match between Anhelina Kalinina and Beatriz Haddad Maia (3 hours and 41 minutes) was the third longest WTA-1000 match over the last three seasons. Nighthawks.#IBI23 | @InteBNLdItalia @WTA @WTA_insider pic.twitter.com/D3qvBOoMM6— OptaAce (@OptaAce) May 17, 2023
Kalinina would bounce back in the second set. Once again, she built an early lead but was unable to hold on. But facing another tiebreak, the Ukrainian kept Haddad Maia at bay down the stretch to take it 8-6 and force a deciding set.
Haddad Maia jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the final set but as the match clicked past the 3-hour and 32-minute mark, eclipsing the previous longest match of the season between Erika Andreeva and Harriet Dart in Austin. Haddad Maia struggled to maintain her consistency. Finding more consistent depth and width, Kalinina won the last six games to seal the win and advance to the biggest match of her career.
"It sounds very basic -- fight, fight -- but it was today about the fighting spirit because it's really tough when you are down 3-0 to be positive and to still believe that you will win just this ball," Kalinina said. "It's not about winning the set because if you think like that it's really tough to go from 3-0 to win 6-3."
Kalinina will face No.12 Veronika Kudermetova in the semifinals on Friday. The two have split their two prior meetings, but both have gone a full three sets. Kalinina won their most recent match, a 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 win in Dubai in February.