ROME: Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina fought from 4-1 down in the second set to overhaul Jelena Ostapenko on Friday to reach the final of the Italian Open.
The 6-2, 6-4 comeback from the Kazakh sent Rybakina into her fourth major final of the season after the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami.
She will bid for the trophy on Saturday against Anhelina Kalinina of the Ukraine, who reached the second WTA final of her career with a 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 defeat of Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova.
The winner then gave a shout out to her country, invaded by Russia last year, as she moved into the title match at the Foro Italico.
“It’s absolutely important to try and win every match, (considering) what Ukraine is going through,” she said.
“I hope I can give a small light and maybe some positive emotions to my country.”
Rybankina will need a quick turnaround after winning a rain-interrupted semifinal in just under one and three quarter hours, aided by 33 unforced errors from 2017 Roland Garros champion Ostapenko.
The second-set fightback sealed victory for Rybakina on her first match point as her opponent dumped a volley into the net.
“It was not easy at all with the starting and stopping,” the winner said. “I need to recover for the final.”
Everyone knows how good Anhelina is, we are also good friends — if you can say that (in tennis).
“It will be a tough match for sure. I think of course I’m more consistent, there are still a lot of things to improve.
“But I’m happy that physically I can maintain and stay in the tournament till the end.
Rybakina was pleased with her second-set turnaround.
“I didn’t start that well, I was a bit low in energy. Lost my serve. So it was difficult.
“Then a few good shots from her, good serves — it changed very quickly.
“I just tried to focus on every point and got the break back and served really well after that.”
Earlier, Kalinina pointedly refused to shake hands with her defeated Russian Kudermetova opponent and made no apologies for the snub.
“We didn’t shake hands because the girl is from Russia basically. It’s no secret why I didn’t shake, because this country actually attacked Ukraine,” she said.
“This is sport, but it’s also kind of a politician thing. It’s nothing personal. But in general, yes, it’s not acceptable.”
Kalinina will be the lowest ranked finalist at the tournament since 1986 and will rise to her equal career-high ranking of 28th.
It took her nearly three hours to go through in a match played 72 hours after she won another marathon in the quarter-finals.
“I don’t feel my legs, I’ve played so much tennis last couple of days — all three-setters,” the winner said.
“I’m barely walking but I’m happy to be able to go through.”
The Ukrainian dominated the third set after a back-and-forth battle in the earlier chapters on the clay.
Kalinina saved eight break points over two games in the first set before finally taking a 4-3 lead with a break to love.
Kudermetova stayed in touch, delivering two aces to trail 4-5, with Kalinina subsequently broken as she tried to serve out the set.
But the Ukrainian came good on a second chance, winning it 7-5 after 66 minutes thanks to 18 unforced errors from her opponent.
The second set began with a pair of love holds before Kudermetova handed over a break for 3-2 to Kalinina from a long forehand.
The Ukrainian, who lost her only previous WTA final two years ago in Budapest, was broken to love while serving for the match, with a recharged Kudermetova taking a 6-5 lead.
She quickly captured one more game after winning 16 straight points to throw the match into a deciding third set.
Kudermetova saved three break points but fell short on a fourth to lose serve in the opening game of the third set as she went down to defeat.