Rome, May 21 (IANS): Elena Rybakina won her second WTA 1000 title of the year after an ailing Anhelina Kalinina retired during the second set of their Italian Open final on late Saturday night, here.
Rybakina registered a 6-4, 1-0 win after Kalinina retired from the final due to a left thigh injury.
After rain backed up play for much of the day, No.7 seed Rybakina took the trophy when 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, I'm happy with the title. Not the way I want to finish this match," Rybakina said in her post-match press conference.
"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 quickly and she can continue like this," she added.
After winning her fifth career singles title in Rome, reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina is projected to rise to World No.4 after this fortnight, which will mark her Top 5 debut in the WTA Tour singles rankings.
This year's Australian Open runner-up Rybakina is the first player to capture two WTA 1000 titles this season, adding the Rome trophy to her Indian Wells title. Rybakina also reached a third WTA 1000 final this year in Miami, and she is 19-2 at WTA 1000 events so far 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.
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 matches this year, with 29.
Rybakina finished the truncated final with 21 winners to 17 unforced errors. She added three aces to her tour-leading total of 278 so far this year, with 32 of those coming in Rome over the last 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.
"I feel like I am at my physical limit today especially. Today, yeah, I started, but after, I don't know, two, three games, I couldn't. I was trying, but it was absolutely impossible," Kalinina said afterwards.
"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," she added.