Rome winner Rybakina sets his sights on Roland Garros


Champion hug: Elena Rybakina (right) played by Anhelina Kalinina

Champion hug: Elena Rybakina (right) played by Anhelina Kalinina

Elena Rybakina won the Italian Open on Saturday and immediately turned her attention to Roland Garros and the pursuit of her second Grand Slam title.

Kazakhstan’s Rybakina claimed her second World Tennis Championships 1000 title of the season at Foro Italiaco when Ukrainian competitor Anhelina Kalinina retired with a groin injury she had been carrying around all week.

Rybakina hugged her friend and rival on the grid while the hapless loser explained how the physical problem had finally gripped her.

World number six Rybakina, the reigning Wimbledon champion, was leading 6-4, 1-0 when Kalinina announced his resignation just after midnight in a rain-delayed final.

Rybakina, 23, has become the first woman to win two World Tennis Championships 1000 titles this season, having already won the prestigious Indian Wells hard shoe tournament in March.

She was also the runner-up at the Australian Open and in Miami and is now eyeing the French Open.

“I hope I can go far in the French Open,” she said. “I have good memories playing there.

“Now that I’m getting more matches on clay, it’s a little easier and (gives) more confidence for sure.

“It’s always important to be healthy, to be physically ready, and I hope I can go far out there.”

She offered to wish Kalinina a speedy recovery.

“She did a great job, and I hope she will be a good fit for Roland Garros,” said Rybakina.

The 68-minute match didn’t start until 11 p.m. Rybakina told the staunch crowd in the stadium who had sat through more than four hours of delay that she knew it wasn’t easy for them.

Rybakina, who will rise to No. 4 in the world ahead of Roland Garros, is the third woman to reach the finals of the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami and Rome in the same season.

The others are Monica Seles in 1991 and Maria Sharapova in 2012.

Russian-born Rybakina has won 28 matches this season – only world number two and Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka has won 29.

“I am proud that I can maintain this level, it is not easy with all the appointments and travel.

“I think we are doing well with the team,” said Rybakina. “I can see improvements on the field, physically as well. I think we’re on the right track.”

But she added, “There is still a lot of room for improvement. But things are going well at the moment, and I hope to continue like this until the end of the season.”

Kalinina, 26, said her physique kept her fit enough to compete to the finish in Rome.

“I tried my best, but I couldn’t play,” Kalinina said, and apologized to the viewers.

str / bb


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