Once again, rain wanted to be the protagonist at this year’s edition of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia: first it delayed the start of the semifinal between Jelena Ostapenko and Elena Rybakina, then it forced two interruptions. Eventually, the Wimbledon champion took the victory in straight sets with a 6-2 6-4 score.
One wonders if a 40-minute 6-2 set can but be a one-way traffic? Because it was the case tonight: both players hit hard and consistently keeping the rallies short, but even if Rybakina quickly took a 5-1 lead thanks to great returning, Ostapenko was there to take advantage of any short ball from the Kazakh. The reigning Wimbledon champion suffered on the final game of the set, having to ask for an extra help by her first serve as the Latvian attacked constantly on the return. Despite three break points, in the end Rybakina closed 6-2.
But it was as if that game, though lost, gave Ostapenko the belief that she could dictate the rallies more and force her opponent on the defense that neither likes. The Latvian held in the first game with three consecutive aces and then broke thanks to stunning returns.
As rain returned, Ostapenko managed to save break point to keep the lead, but once Rybakina held her own serve for 4-2, the game was interrupted. The players returned on court minutes later and Ostapenko tried to serve, but down 15-40 she asked for the game to stop. Another downpour came and the court was covered.
Some 30 minutes later, the two returned on court and after the warmup, the Latvian had to serve down two break points. The break did not help Ostapenko, who not only got broken immediately, but fired 6 consecutive unforced errors to see Rybakina first tie on 4-4 and then break with a backhand down the line return winner.
The world number six was helped by her serve to reach match point, but then she managed to show great patience and defensive skill to weather the storm that Ostapenko tried to bring on court for a final attempt of prolonging the match. Finally, another unforced error from the Latvian ended the match 6-2 6-4 for the Kazakh.
“It was not easy at all to start and stop again,” commented Rybakina, who then thanked all the people that did not bother with the rain and stayed to cheer until the end of the match.
The last obstacle between her and the title comes by the name of Anhelina Kalinina, who will be the underdog but yet the Kazakh does not want to underestimate.
“I know Anhelina very well and we are friends, so it will be a very tough match”.