Elena Rybakina wins Italian Open amid farcical late night scenes in Rome
Elena Rybakina was crowned WTA Italian Open champion after Anhelina Kalininia retired in the second set of the final through injury, as a bizarre tournament in Rome had an unsatisfactory conclusion to the women’s draw.
Extravagant ticket prices have seen matches played in front of sparse crowds at the Foro Italico, as the wet weather had proved to be a further dampener to the occasion.
After another day of rain in Rome, the women’s final went on court ridiculously late at night and the retirement of Kalininia seemed to provide a fitting end to a poorly conceived event.
With fans huddled in the stands and wearing winter clothing as they battled chilled conditions, this did not feel like the fitting conclusion such a prestigious event.
Yet it was a night to remember for Rybakina, who confirmed she will be one of the players to beat when the French Open gets underway later this month.
Kalininia started in tremendous fashion as she broke Rybakina following several deuce rallies, but the Kazakh started to show her quality and hit back with a break of her own in the sixth game before breaking again in the 10th game to claim the opening set.
Rybakina started the second set with a convincing hold as Kalininia took a seat to speak to her doctor and after a very swift consultation, the players shook hands to give the 2022 Wimbledon champion her biggest title on clay which will also see her climb to fourth in the WTA rankings on Monday.
It was the second time in the tournament that Rybakina had won after her opponent retired after Iga Swiatek was forced to retire in the quarter-finals.
After victory, Rybakina said courtside: “I want to wish Kalininia a speedy recovery because she is a really good friend of mine and I am really happy for all of her results. She did a good job and hopefully can recover for the French Open.
“A big thanks to the crowd and everyone who stayed and watched till the end. It was not easy for us but not easy for you with all the rain today so thank you so much for the support.”
Kalininia said: “I’m really sorry I couldn’t play. I was trying to do my best but of course this is sport and I want to congratulate Elena for not only this title but everything you have done this year starting from Wimbledon, it’s really inspiring and hopefully I can get to your level one day.
“Best of luck for the season, stay healthy and reach your goals.”
There is bound to be a review of the events in Rome over the last couple of weeks, as the plan to stage a joint ATP and WTA event appears to have backfired.
Tournament officials eager to cash in with lavish ticket prices have seen their plan backfire as the courtside tickets that were on sale for up to €800 and more remained empty.
Now the men’s final between Holger Rune and Daniil Medvedev will bring down the curtain on the Italian Open on Sunday, with the weather forecast predicting more rain for the final day.
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