Storybook week continues: Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina reaches Rome final

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina is making a strong run at her first WTA title and she booked her spot in Saturday’s championship match with a 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 victory over No. 11 seeded Veronika Kudermetova of Russia in Friday’s semifinals at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.

Kalinina, seeded 30th, let a 5-3 lead get away in the second set, before playing a resounding third set and earning a spot in her second career final.

“I lost a little bit maybe concentration,” Kalinina said after Friday’s win. “Also too much nerves because I was serving for the match. This is my first (WTA 1000) semifinal. I was trying to little bit turn off the emotions, but it’s very tough when you’re playing such tough matches.

“Third set, I think I was much better mentally. I was staying stronger, more focused. I’m really happy and proud of myself how I handled it after the second set.”

Kalinina will face No. 7 seed Elena Rybakina in the final. The Kazakh posted a 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 20 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

Rybakina said she is looking forward to facing Kalinina.

“We just have a good relationship. I’m always cheering for her also,” Rybakina said. “Same, whenever I win, she’s always supporting. We have a good relationship.

“I’m happy that we’re going to play a final.”

Kalinina won the lone previous match with Rybakina, prevailing in the second round at the Charleston Open in 2022.

Reaching the championship match is emotional for the 26-year-old Kalinina as the Russian invasion of her homeland continues.

Her hometown of Nova Kakhovka is under the occupation of Russian troops and her family relocated to Kyiv. Her parents serve as tennis coaches at an academy and just days ago, according to Kalinina, there was a “huge, huge bomb near them, near their academy.”

So basically, Kalinina’s homeland is always at the front of her mind.

“It’s really important to win every match because of what Ukraine goes through,” Kalinina told the crowd in Rome. “I really hope that I give a tiny, small light, maybe some positive emotions for my country. I really hope that Ukraine a little bit enjoys this.”

Kudermetova had nice aces in defeat. She and Kalinina did not shake hands after the match.

“We’re here, and we love what we do here,” Kudermetoiva said. “Doesn’t matter from which country you are. We’re athletes, and that’s it. We are here to play tennis.”

Rybakina won the first set of her match but trailed 4-1 in the second when the first of two rain delays occurred. She won one game before the second delay occurred and then won the final four games to seal the match and reach her fourth final of the year.

“I didn’t start that well the second set,” Rybakina said. “A bit low in energy, lost my serve. So it was difficult. Then a few good shots from her, good serves. It changed very quick.

“The same time, I knew it’s only one break and I just need to be focused and fight for every ball because you never know, either you get the winner or it’s going to be some mistake.”

Ostapenko had a 7-6 edge in aces but committed five double faults to two for Rybakina.

–Field Level Media

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