ROME -- The Internazionali BNL d'Italia final is set for Saturday. Reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina will face first-time WTA-1000 finalist Anhelina Kalinina for one of the biggest clay-court titles on tour.
No.6 Rybakina has a chance to cement herself as a short-list favorite for the French Open by winning her second WTA 1000 of the season.
No.47 Kalinina could make history as the lowest-ranked Rome champion in over 35 years if can finish off her Cinderella run.
Here's what you need to know ahead of Saturday's showdown:
When is the women's singles final?
The singles final is scheduled for Saturday, May 20 at 7 p.m.
The doubles final between top seeds Coco Gauff/Jessica Pegula and Storm Hunter/Elise Mertens will follow the singles final.
What are the points and prize-money at stake?
By virtue of making the Rome final, Rybakina and Kalinina have assured themselves at least 650 points and €272,200. Saturday's champion will walk away with 1000 points and €521,754.
How did Rybakina and Kalinina get here?
Seeded No.7 in Rome, Rybakina advanced to her third WTA 1000 final of the season and fourth final overall with wins over Jasmine Paolini, Anna Kalinskaya, Marketa Vondrousova, No.1 Iga Swiatek and 20th seed Jelena Ostpaenko. Her wins over Kalinskaya and Swiatek came via retirement, with Kalinskaya bowing out in the first set after seven games, while Swiatek retired at 2-2 in the third set.
Rybakina has now made four finals this season, finishing runner-up at the Australian Open and Miami and winning Indian Wells. Since the introduction of the WTA-1000 format in 2009, Rybakina is the third player to make the final in Indian Wells, Miami and Rome in the same season, joining Maria Sharapova in 2012 and Swiatek in 2022.
Seeded No.30, Kalinina has earned wins against Anna Blinkova, Sofia Kenin, 30th seed Madison Keys, No 12 Beatriz Haddad Maia and No.11 Veronika Kudermetova. Kalinina won her last three matches in three sets, with her 3-hour and 41-minute duel against Haddad Maia clocking in as the longest match of the season.
What milestones are at stake on Saturday?
Rybakina is bidding to win her fifth title on the Hologic WTA Tour and her second on clay. She won her first WTA title on clay in Bucharest in 2019. A victory would net her a second WTA 1000 title this season, which would lead the tour.
2023 WTA 1000 Champions:
- Dubai: Barbora Krejcikova d. Iga Swiatek
- Indian Wells: Elena Rybakina d. Aryna Sabalenka
- Miami: Petra Kvitova d. Elena Rybakina
- Madrid: Aryna Sabalenka d. Iga Swiatek
Rybakina came into the tournament ranked No.6 but has assured herself a Top 5 debut on Monday. If she wins the title, she will rise to No.4 and earn a Top 4 seed at Roland Garros.
Kalinina is bidding to win her first WTA title. Her initial breakthrough came in Budapest in 2021. Both of these runs have been on clay courts.
Ranked No.47, Kalinina could become the lowest-ranked player to win the final at the Italian Open since Raffaella Reggi in 1985. By making the final, she assured herself a new career-high ranking on Monday. She will rise to No.13 with the title and No.15 as runner-up.
How do they stack up?
Rybakina and Kalinina have played just once. That match came last year on the green clay in Charleston. Kalinina won 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
What are they saying?
Rybakina: "I came [to Rome] without any expectation because I knew the other years were really tough for me coming and play here. Maybe for some people, rain is not good. I guess for my allergies it went the other way. It's helping me a bit to feel better here.
"I'm just happy that I got so many matches now before French Open."
Kalinina: "Didn't expect this. I was playing match by match. Yeah, it went to the final. Unbelievable."
Kalinina: "It just didn't go [my way] in Indian Wells, Miami, Charleston, Madrid. I'm just saying I was losing second, third round, even first. But now it went through.
"Yeah, it's tennis. This is sport. I respect everyone. It can go both ways. I appreciate the moment that it goes my way now."
Rybakina: "She's a really good person. Actually, she used to work with my coach. We just have a good relationship. I'm always cheering for her also. Same, whenever I win, she's always supporting me. We have a good relationship.
"Yeah, I'm happy that we're going to play final."