An injured Swiatek is one step away from victory. Rybakina advances • Internazionali BNL d’Italia

An injured Swiatek is one step away from victory.  Rybakina advances • Internazionali BNL d’Italia

The match between Iga Swiatek and Elena Rybakina was not difficult to mark as the expected final. It was a beautiful two-set match that was initially dominated by world number 1 Poland, who advanced 6-2 4-2 with the ball at her disposal to make it 5-2. She was unsuccessful in exploiting it, also thanks to her opponent, and suffered a comeback, with newfound confidence, with a devastating serve, forcing a tie-break. There the Kazakh, No. 6 in the world, was more decisive and effective, she flew from 3-3 to 6-3, ending the attack. Specifically, trying to recapture the opponent’s last lunge, Swiatek heavily propped her right leg up and finished the combination with a grimace of pain.

At that point he requested a “medical leave”. Upon her return to the field, she appeared refreshed, in addition to having a bandage on her right thigh. He got off to a great start holding his first two tours. Rybakina also did the same because the Polish woman no longer responded to the answer. And when the challenger made the score 2-2, she signaled to the referee that her match and tournament were over.

With a sad handshake gave way to Rybakina, who will face in the semifinals Yelena Ostapenko, N.N. 20 in the world, and they are behind them 2-1 in head-to-head matches, but they won the last match, in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open this year.

Elena Rybakina qualified for the semi-finals of the Internazionale BNL d’Italia – Photo Giampiero Sposito

A painful result for a confrontation that promised so much and was in fact keeping expectations alive: the world No. 1 was facing the actually deserving No. 6 overall, which would be hers if the year 2000 counted in points. He was slated to be the winner of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships (played without ATP and WTA points being awarded). Given that Arina Sabalenka No. 2 made her debut in Rome, where she was surprisingly defeated by American Sofia Kenin, it can be argued that the strongest tennis players of the moment faced each other on the center court.

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More than anything, Rybakina is, along with Sabalenka, the tennis player who best manages to stand up to the ring dominatrix. This year she beat her in the round of 16 at the Australian Open (where she later lost to Sabalenka in the final), beat her again in the semifinals at Indian Wells, and then beat her in the final, guess who? Arina Sabalenka.

In addition to the fourth chapter of the saga that began in 2021 with success by Swiatek in the Ostrava Championship, the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia were supposed to be a validation of mutual ambitions and the Kazakh’s ability to be able to compete at the top also on clay.

Foro Italico these days is particularly slow, drenched in rain, certainly not helped by the Moscow-born statuesque athlete, 1m 84, certainly less fast than the impressive Polish athlete of 1m 76, the sprint is like breaking a ball with its acceleration.

Iga Swiatek takes his smartphone out of his bag – Photo Giampiero Sposito
Swiatek entrusts his smartphone to tournament director Sergio Palmieri – Photo Giampiero Sposito

n.1 takes off like a rocket but forgets about the smartphone

Swiatek entered the field and was so focused on the challenge that she forgot her mobile phone in her purse. The speaker on the control panel recently invited the audience to turn off their smartphones to enjoy the game and at the most delicate moment of the first game, it was exactly the number 1 person who started playing, forcing the owner, very embarrassed, to interrupt the game to search through the bags for the annoying thing . This didn’t stop her from making the break soon after that would have allowed her to run in with a header, also to challenge her opponent in terms of pure strength.

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With his yellow and blue cockade tied to his hat to remember his support for the Ukrainian people, Swiatek always tried to be very aggressive on the return, staying very close to the baseline even on Rybakina’s first ball, the queen of the aces on the WTA circuit.

The tactic was rewarded with a second break which gave very accurate direction to the first set. Rybakina remained very dangerous: she pushed every ball where she could find a safe place to the extreme. However, the Pole did everything to make her move, to force her to move before each game, thus reducing her safety margins. He continues to push Elena hard but the misses are definitely more than the winning strokes.

Elena Rybakina – Image by Giampiero Sposito

It took half an hour for the Wimbledon champion to win the first match. Roland Garros and the US Open champion still lead at 4-1. A few minutes later, exactly 44 minutes into the match, Iga Swiatek sealed game one 6-2.

Swiatek also starts well in the second set

The second was opened by breaking serve from the strong opponent again. When the Kazakh returned to bat, tied at 0-2, the percentage of points won after hitting the first serve was 47%: a pittance for someone like her.

Then the match kicked off with service rounds and seemed to go one way. In the match at 4-2, Rybakina offered Swiatek a 5-2 chance but then canceled it.

At that point, with Swiatek 4-3 after 1 hour and 28 minutes, Rybakina surprisingly found two break points available, thanks to two forehand errors by her opponent who risked too much and to no avail. He took advantage of it and suddenly the game reopened. And the Kazakh saved, in the next round of service, two consecutive break points, from 15-40, and advanced for the first time with a score of 5-4. He still had to save a break point when he served 5-5: but he did with another winning serve.

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The weight of the group was now on Swiatek, who had accumulated several chances to close but saw them all slip away. When the tie was broken, anxiety devoured her and the law betrayed her. Rybakina flew 6-3 and closed at the first opportunity. The match that seemed over, suddenly ended up in the hands of world No. 6 (who will surely be in the top five in the rankings for the first time as of next Monday) because Swiatek also injured his right thigh while trying a desperate recovery at the set point. And as we expected, he tried to hold until 2-2 of the decider before the white flag was raised. And so Roma loses its queen, the good but the unlucky: the next one, who was crowned in the final on Saturday night, will surely be a new face.

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