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Rome winner Rybakina sets sights on Roland Garros

Elena Rybakina won the Italian Open on Saturday and promptly turned her attention to Roland Garros and the pursuit of a second career Grand Slam title.

Kazakhstan’s Rybakina captured her second WTA 1000 title of the season at Foro Italico when Ukrainian opponent Anhelina Kalinina retired with a thigh injury which she had been carrying all week.

Rybakina hugged her friend and rival at the net as the tearful loser explained how the physical problem had finally caught up with her.

World number six Rybakina, the reigning Wimbledon champion, was leading 6-4, 1-0 when Kalinina called it quits shortly after midnight in a final long-delayed by rain.

Rybakina, 23, became the first woman to capture two WTA 1000 titles this season, having already won the prestigious Indian Wells hard court tournament in March.

She was also runner-up at the Australian Open and in Miami and now she is eyeing up the French Open.

“Hopefully I can go far at the French Open,” she said. “I have good memories playing there.

“Now that I’ve got more matches on clay,it’s a bit easier and (gives) a bit more confidence definitely.

“It’s always important to be healthy, be ready physically, then hopefully I can go far there.”

She offered wishes for a speedy recovery to Kalinina.

“She has done an amazing job, I hope she is fit for Roland Garros,” Rybakina said.

The 68-minute match didn’t get underway until 11 pm, Rybakina telling the hardy fans in the stadium who sat through more than four hours of delays that she knew it wasn’t easy for them.

Rybakina, who will rise to four in the world ahead of Roland Garros, is only the third woman to have reached the finals at the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami and Rome in the same season.

The others were Monica Seles in 1991 and Maria Sharapova in 2012.

The Russian-born Rybakina has now won 28 matches this season—only world number two and Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka has won more, with 29.

“I’m proud that I can maintain this level, it’s not easy with all the scheduling, traveling. 

“I think we’re doing a good job with the team,” Rybakina said. “I can see improvements on the court, physically also. I think we’re on a right way.”

But she added: “There is still a lot of room to improve. But for now it’s going well, and hopefully I can continue like this till the end of the season.”

Kalinina, 26, said that her physio had kept her fit enough to compete until the end in Rome.

“I tried my best but I just could not play,” Kalinina said, apologising to spectators.

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