It was not the way Elena Rybakina wanted to win her biggest title on clay, but when the clock had just passed midnight, she was crowned queen of the WTA Masters 1000 of Rome. Anhelina Kalinina was forced to retire from this final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia down 6-3 1-0.
Signs that something was not perfect for the Ukrainian were clear as she stepped on court with a taping on her left thigh, but the fighting spirit that she had shown all week was still there. The 30th seed tried to make up for her troubles in the movement with her strong backhand and anticipation.
In the first game of the match she managed to break the Wimbledon champion, but since then, all games were mostly fought with the Ukrainian’s serve. The strong game of Rybakina slowly imposed a high rhythm to the match and Kalinina was forced to defend from the baseline. The Kazakh broke back for 3-3 and had 3 consecutive chances to break once again in the next game on return, but Kalinina fought like a lioness to clear those and one more break point before holding.
A 21-shot rally under the lights 🌙— wta (@WTA) May 20, 2023
Outstanding stuff from @angie_kalinina 👏#IBI23 pic.twitter.com/N9f4Pz3Msz
Rybakina did not let the missed chance distract her and she held for 5-4 to force her opponent to serve to stay in the set. At the end of another tough game and despite saving one set point, Kalinina lost the serve again and the first set with it.
Sadly, as the second set started, the Ukrainian immediately felt too much pain in the left thigh and was forced to retire.
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
“I am really sorry I couldn’t play, I was trying my best”, said Kalinina in tears, before congratulating her friend and rival today, Elena Rybakina: “this is sport and there must be a winner, you are an inspiration not just for this title, but the one of Wimbledon and all the amazing results. I hope I can get to your level one day”.
The Kazakh, who will now reach the world number 4 on Monday, also spent a great deal of words to wish Kalinina a speedy recovery and congratulated her for the great run: “it is not nice to end a match like this, but I am happy that we managed to close the tournament today despite all the rain delay. It was a tough start of the match, but I expected a fight because I knew she is a great fighter and player. I am really happy to win this tournament”.
But even if she left Rome as the queen of this tournament, she still did not feel like a favourite for the upcoming slam in Paris: “I never look at the draws and I always take it one match at the time, because there are so many strong girls on the tour. But my dream is to become world number one and obviously win another slam”.