ROME -- Ukraine's Anhelina Kalinina had a message for her embattled home country after she advanced to the final of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
"It’s really important to win every match, because of what Ukraine goes through," Kalinina told the crowd at the Foro Italico. "I really hope that I give a tiny, small light, maybe some positive emotions for my country. I really hope that Ukraine a little bit enjoys [this].”
Kalinina into first WTA 1000 final; outlasts Kudermetova in Rome
Kalinina, a 26-year-old Ukrainian, has emerged as the lowest-ranked Rome finalist in more than 35 years. The World No.47 has come through a series of challenging matches. She defeated former No.4 Sofia Kenin in the third round, then dug deep to knock off 30th seed Madison Keys, No.12 Beatriz Haddad Maia and No.11 Veronika Kudermetova in three sets.
Her win against Haddad Maia was the longest match of the season, clocking in at 3 hours and 41 minutes.
Remarkably, Kalinina has achieved all this while processing the news that her family in Kyiv continues to face danger. After the match, she shared with reporters the unsettling news that a bomb had exploded near the Kyiv academy where her parents serve as tennis coaches.
"Yeah, near the tennis court," she said. "We have an academy, [then] maybe 300 meters [there is an] airport, and [now] there is no airport. This is how they live."
Kalinina has been persistently faced with the impact of war since the Russian invasion began last spring. Last year, a Russian assault left her parents' home in ruins. Currently, her hometown of Nova Kakhovka is under the occupation of Russian troops. Her grandparents, along with the entire family, have now relocated to Kyiv.
"I have no connections with Nova Kakhovka anymore because everyone is in Kyiv," she said. "I'm super happy because it's absolutely impossible to stay, to live [there], because there was so many weapons, so many soldiers near my grandmother and grandfather's house. It was absolutely not possible to live, to stay.
"They are very old people. So for them, it was very tough to make this decision to move from that city. They're living 60 years there. We kind of pushed them, like, 'You have to go.' When the bomb came directly to their house, it was a couple of meters left, not exactly in their apartment, but left. They kind of wake up and realize, 'Oh, my God, yeah, we have to move.'"
Since the beginning of the war, Kalinina has used her earnings to offer support and aid to as many Ukrainians as she can. By making Saturday's final, she's guaranteed herself a prize money check of at least €272,000.
Kalinina says she has been moved by the vocal crowd support she has received from the Italian crowd all tournament.
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"I don't remember where I was playing [but] almost for me it was like the whole stadium was cheering me up," Kalinina said. "It's kind of amazing feeling. I have never experienced something like that. They bring so much energy to fight when you don't even have energy to do that.
"From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank every person who was in the stadium from the first match till hopefully tomorrow I will have another match. Thanks for them. They kind of motivated me and they give me much more energy to fight."