ROME -- The Internazionali BNL d'Italia semifinals are set. Two Grand Slam champions will play for the fourth time in the top half of the draw, while in the bottom half, two resurgent players will compete to make their first final at a WTA 1000-level event.

Here's how the matchups between Elena Rybakina and Jelena Ostapenko, and Veronika Kudermetova and Anhelina Kalinina break down.

Quarterfinal reports: Kudermetova beats Zheng Qinwen | Kalinina outlasts Haddad Maia | Ostapenko downs Badosa | Rybakina advances after Swiatek retires

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[7] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) vs. [20] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

Rybakina repeated her Australian Open win, defeating Swiatek to set up a showdown with Ostapenko. 

An intriguing rivalry is developing between Rybakina and Ostapenko, with the upcoming semifinal marking their fourth encounter, one across each surface. Ostapenko took the first two on indoor hard courts (Linz 2019) and grass (Eastbourne 2021), but Rybakina got on the board on outdoor hard courts at the Australian Open this year.

In those meetings, the result has hinged on the small differences between these two big hitters. Ostapenko is more explosive off the ground and dynamic with her shot selection, but Rybakina is more reliable, particularly behind her serve.

Could clay introduce a new dimension to the game? Ostapenko, a former Roland Garros champion, certainly believes so.

"She's a great server and she's been playing well this year, but I don't know if clay is her best surface," Ostapenko said after defeating Paula Badosa. "Here it's a bit slower, so the players who are big servers have a bit of a disadvantage because after a few games, the ball gets heavier and doesn't fly as much.

"I like this surface and I know how to move on it. I move better, I'm way faster than a few months ago. The courts and atmosphere fit me well here."

This fortnight, Ostapenko has put together a few streaks that have shown she can reduce opponents to spectators. Among her highlights were winning 28 out of 31 points in a streak against Barbora Krejcikova, sweeping Daria Kasatkina in a 6-0 third set and tallying 18 winners against Badosa's none in their first set.

However, Ostapenko's performances have also been marked by inconsistency. She lost 16 consecutive points to Krejcikova, and both the Kasatkina and Badosa matches were extended to three sets. 

Rybakina's form is harder to assess. After early exits in Stuttgart and Madrid, two of the Wimbledon champion's four wins in Rome have come via retirement. But she was ruthlessly efficient at shutting down Marketa Vondrousova in the fourth round and scrapped hard to snatch the second set against Swiatek before the top-ranked player was forced to retire in the third.

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[11] Veronika Kudermetova vs. [30] Anhelina Kalinina (UKR)

There are a few parallels between the semifinals runs of Kudermetova and Kalinina this week. Both players made significant moves up the rankings in 2022 and were at career highs in the first quarter of 2023. Kudermetova started the year at No.9, and Kalinina hit No.28 in March.

Before the clay season, they had been backsliding. Kudermetova won one out of six matches between the Doha semifinals and her renaissance in Madrid, where she made her first WTA 1000 semifinal. Prior to Rome, Kalinina had not won consecutive matches since the Australian Open, and her ranking had fallen to No.48.

Kudermetova and Kalinina have both rediscovered their form in style to arrest these mini-slumps. Kudermetova ascribes her turnaround to her opening Charleston loss to 19-year-old Diana Shnaider, an opponent she noted was "even younger than my sister." (Relevant, too, was the fact that Kudermetova's 19-year-old sister Polina had managed to defeat Shnaider in an ITF event last summer.)

As "depressed" as Kudermetova says she was after that match, it was also the moment she realized she needed to "start to think positively" again. In Madrid and Rome, she has been playing with renewed intensity, pairing her powerful groundstrokes with fine reflexes at net. This week, she has managed to hold off the young guns, outlasting Anastasia Potapova and Zheng Qinwen in three sets.

Kalinina's form became apparent when she overcame former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, fresh off an impressive victory against No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, in the third round. However, her quarterfinal performance was a turning point. Overcoming a 3-0 deficit in the third set, Kalinina won the longest tour-level match of 2023, a grueling 3-hour and 41-minute battle against Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Photos: All this year's three-hour matches

"Each player needs this kind of matches to understand they can do this," Kalinina said. "I'd never had such a long match. Before, I was like, 'Oh, two-and-a-half hours, I did a good job. But now I know I can really play four."

The smart money would be on another extended battle. The two 26-year-olds have been facing off since their junior days, and every one of their encounters has gone to three sets. At the pro level, they're all square at one win apiece, with Kalinina taking the most recent 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 in this year's Dubai first round. Their only previous clay meeting was in juniors, at the 2012 Berlin Grade 1 event, which Kalinina also won 2-6, 6-1, 7-5.

Dubai: Kalinina upsets Kudermetova in three-hour opener