Elena Rybakina won her second title of the year at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in a late-night final on Saturday, defeating an injured Anhelina Kalinina 6-4, 1-0, ret. Kalinina retired from the final with a left thigh injury.
After rain backed up play for much of the day, No.7 seed Rybakina took the trophy when the No.30 seed Kalinina was unable to continue after 65 minutes. Rybakina had lost to Kalinina in their only previous meeting, on the clay courts of Charleston last year.
"Of course, happy with the title," Rybakina said in her post-match press conference. "Not the way I want to finish this match.
"It's been great, I think, results for Anhelina. She played some tough battles. Really happy for her improvement. Hopefully she can continue like this. Pity she couldn't finish the match. I hope that it's nothing serious. So hopefully she can recover quick and she can continue like this."
Gracious words from Elena 💜#IBI23 pic.twitter.com/CthBqxy9kj— wta (@WTA) May 20, 2023
By the numbers: After winning her fifth career singles title in Rome, the reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina is projected to rise to World No.4, which will mark her Top 5 debut in the Hologic WTA Tour singles rankings.
This year's Australian Open runner-up Rybakina is the first player to capture two WTA 1000 titles in 2023, adding the Rome trophy to her Indian Wells title. Rybakina also reached a third WTA 1000 final this year in Miami. She is 19-2 at WTA 1000 events in 2023.
Only two other players in the Open Era have reached finals at the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami and Rome in the same season, Monica Seles in 1991 and Maria Sharapova in 2012.
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Rybakina has won 28 tour-level matches this year, tied for second place on tour with World No.1 Iga Swiatek. Only World No.2 and reigning Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka has won more (29).
"I'm proud that I can maintain this level," Rybakina said. "It's not easy, with all the scheduling, traveling. I think we're doing a good job with the team. I can see improvements on the court, physically also. I think we're on a right way."
Not the ending we wanted to see ❤️🩹— wta (@WTA) May 20, 2023
Kalinina has been forced to withdraw due to injury. Rybakina wins 6-4, 1-0 ret.#IBI23 pic.twitter.com/qxxDk54Yfq
Match breakdown: Rybakina finished the truncated final with 21 winners to 17 unforced errors. She added three aces to her tour-leading total of 278 this year, with 32 of those coming in Rome over the past two weeks.
A lengthy opening game went against Rybakina as she dropped serve, and Kalinina eventually built a 3-1 first-set lead. However, Rybakina pulled back level at 3-3, and she wrapped up a first-set comeback with a break at 5-4 behind powerful service returns.
Kalinina played one point in the second game of the second set before saying that she could not step on her left leg. The physio arrived on court, but the injury caused Kalinina to stop then and there.
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"I feel like I am at my physical limit today especially," Kalinina said afterward. "Today, yeah, I started, but after, I don't know, two, three games, I couldn't. I was trying, but it was absolutely impossible.
"I'm most proud of my fighting spirit these two weeks. I was fighting despite the score, any situation, any weather conditions, opponents. Everyone was very tough. A serious draw."