Elena Rybakina set for Rome showdown with Anhelina Kalinina

Elena Rybakina returning

Wimbledon and Indians Wells champion Elena Rybakina will take on first-time WTA 1000 finalist Anhelina Kalinina in Rome.

Kalinina reached the championship match with a 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 win against Veronika Kudermetova on Friday evening.

Later, Elena Rybakina advanced to her third WTA 1000 final of the season after ousting 20th seed Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4 in a rain-interrupted match.

Rybakina got off to a fast start, breaking Ostapenko twice to take the lead 4-1 in the opening set. After 43 minutes, the WTA Tour’s ace leader finished out the opening set with her fifth ace of this match as she maintained control of her service games.

However, Ostapenko promptly recovered in the opening moments of the second set. In her ninth appearance in Rome and her first semifinal match, Ostapenko blasted down a forehand return winner tobreak for 2-0. She defended a break point to increase her advantage to 4-1 as the rain got worse.

“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.”

Elena Rybakina says that she has enjoyed Rome more this time around as the weather has proven better for her allergies.

“I came without any expectation because I knew the other years were really tough for me coming and play here,” Rybakina said. “Maybe for some people, rain is not good. I guess for my allergies it went the other way. It’s helping me a bit to feel better here.

“I’m just happy that I got so many matches now before French Open.”

In her match against Kudermetova, Kalinina required 2 hours and 51 minutes to win and take a 2-1 lead in her head to head with the Russian and earn her second straight Top 20 triumph.

Amid the ongoing invasion and occupation areas of Ukraine by Russia, Kalinina made it clear there would be no handshake after the match.

“I win [the first set] 7-5, then I lost a little bit maybe concentration,” Kalinina said after her victory.

“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.”

The Italian Open WTA 1000 final will take place on Saturday evening in Rome.

READ MORE: Iga Swiatek upbeat on chances of playing Roland Garros