Seventh-seeded Elena Rybakina advanced to the semifinals by recording 10 aces and she ultimately prevailed Wednesday when top-seeded Iga Swiatek withdrew due to a right thigh injury in third set of their quarterfinal match at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.
Rybakina’s 2-6, 7-6 (3), 2-2 victory put her in the semifinals of a clay-court event for the first time in her career.
Swiatek appeared to injure her right knee at end of the second-set tiebreaker. After losing a point in which she changed directions quickly on back-to-back hits, the Polish star grabbed the knee and stood still for nearly 10 seconds.
The two-time defending champ in Rome took an injury timeout prior to the start of the third set and she returned with the thigh heavily taped. But she had trouble with the right leg and barely moved in the final game as Rybakina easily served the ball past her on two of the final three points of the match.
“I saw something happen in the tiebreak, on almost the last point but I didn’t know how serious it is,” Rybakina said of Swiatek’s injury. “I saw that the first two games (of the final set) she started really aggressive so I understood that she couldn’t really move that much.”
After that game, Swiatek signaled that she couldn’t continue and the two-hour, 20-minute match was stunningly over.
Rybakina, from Kazakhstan, has beaten Swiatek three times this year and is 3-1 overall against the top-ranked woman in the world.
“It’s never good to finish a match like this,” said Rybakina, referring to Swiatek’s retirement. “I think it was a very good match. I hope it’s nothing serious for Iga. Yeah, I wish her a speedy recovery.”
Rybakina will face No. 20 seeded Jalena Ostapenko in the semifinals. Latvia’s Ostapenko registered a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Spain’s Paula Badosa to reach the semis in Rome for the first time.
No. 11 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia and 30th-seeded Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine will meet in the other semifinal.
Ostapenko had a 49-12 edge in winners while beating Badosa in one hour, 47 minutes.
“This is one of my favorite tournaments. I really love playing here,” Ostapenko said afterward. “I was never more than in quarterfinals, and now, I’m finally in the semifinals.”
Ostapenko previously lost in the quarterfinals in 2018 and 2021.
She was in control early while dominating the first set before Badosa won the second to even the match. The score was 2-2 in the third before Ostapenko broke Badosa’s service to begin a stretch in which she won four of the final five games.
“Paula is a great player and I know she is such a fighter, so I expected a tough battle. The most important thing was to fight for every point,” Ostapenko said. “The match is only over when you shake hands, so even though some points and games didn’t go my way, I just managed it. I think I played well in deciding moments.”
–Field Level Media