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Surging Rybakina blasts past Ostapenko into Rome final
Elena Rybakina won against Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4 on Friday evening and will face Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina, the No 30 seed, for the title
Elena Rybakina has never been known as a clay court juggernaut, but the No 7-ranked Kazakh is doing her best to change that this week in Rome. She dispatched Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 Roland-Garros champion, 6-2, 6-4 to reach her first WTA 1000 level final on clay, on a rainy Friday evening at the Foro Italico.
The 2022 Wimbledon champion, who will make her long awaited top 5 debut on Monday, will face Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina, the No 30 seed, for the title on Saturday evening.
The fourth overall encounter of two of the hardest hitters on the WTA Tour was played in damp conditions. Rain suspended play twice in the second set, with Ostapenko leading by a break.
Rain reared its ugly head again in Rome
It was umbrellas up, as it has been so often during the Rome fortnight, once again on Friday evening, as heavy drops made the court unplayable late in the second set, just as it appeared that Ostapenko was ready to push the match to a decider.
“It wasn’t easy to start and stop again,” Rybakina said. “I didn’t start that well the second set. A bit low in energy. Lost my serve. So it was difficult. Then few good shots from her, good serves. It changed very quick.
The conditions proved to be more difficult for Ostapenko, who lead 4-2 before the first rain delay but quickly lost three of four points when play resumed.
The players were escorted off court again at that point, and the tarps placed on the clay, as another rain delay ensued.
When they returned for the second time, Rybakina immediately won 10 of the next 11 points to lead by a break and 5-4 in the final set.
“I knew it’s only one break and I just need to be focused and fight for every ball because you never know, either you get the winner or it’s going to be some mistake,” Rybakina said.
She converted her second match point minutes later to lock up the her second consecutive win over the Latvian. Rybakina improves to 27-7 on the season and 6-2 on clay.
An incredible season for Rybakina keeps getting better
With her latest victory, the Kazakh became just the third woman in the Open Era to reach the final at the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami and Rome in the same season.
Ahead of her victory, the Kazakh beat Italian Jasmine Paolini (7-6 (4), 6-1), Russian Anna Kalinskaya (4-3 ret.), Czech Marketa Vondrousova (6-3, 6-3) and Pole Iga Swiatek, the top seed (2-6, 7-6 (3), 2-2 ret.).
Ostapenko, ranked No 20, made a memorable run in Rome. She defeated Romanian Sorana Cirstea (6-3, 3-6, 6-2), Czech Barbora Krejcikova, the No 10 seed (7-6 (2), 6-0), Russian Daria Kasatkina, the No 8 seed (6-4, 4-6, 6-0) and Spaniard Paula Badosa (6-2, 4-6, 6-3) in the previous rounds of the Rome tournament.