Elena Rybakina targets deep run at Roland Garros after Rome triumph

Kazakh, 23, bagged her second title of 2023 after her Indian Wells triumph and fifth overall when Ukraine's Anhelina Kalinina retired while trailing 6-4, 1-0

Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan poses with the trophy after winning her women's singles final match against Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine. EPA
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Elena Rybakina will head to the French Open with the confidence that she can be as effective on clay as she is on the other two surfaces with her booming serve and groundstrokes after the Kazakh world No 6 won the Italian Open on Saturday.

The Moscow-born 23-year-old bagged her second title of 2023 after her Indian Wells triumph and fifth overall when Ukraine's Anhelina Kalinina retired while trailing 6-4, 1-0.

Wimbledon champion Rybakina became the sixth woman since the introduction of the WTA 1000 format in 2009 to win a Grand Slam or Masters title on every surface after Serena Williams, Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza and Ash Barty.

"I think with my game, I can play good on all the surfaces," said Rybakina, who also reached the Australian Open and Miami finals this season.

"It's just maybe for clay I need to be ready more physically and have a lot of preparation which I don't always have the time for after the hardcourt season."

Rybakina reached the third round at Roland Garros last year and hoped playing in Paris would be easier this time.

"The tournament is pretty long. Hopefully I can go far. I have good memories playing there," Rybakina said.

"Now I've got more matches on clay, so it's a bit easier and there's a bit more confidence, definitely."

Kalinina, whose hopes of a first title were dashed due to a leg injury, said Rybakina had the qualities to succeed on clay.

"She's serving at 200 kph. She's making winners like no one on tour ... anyone can win in Paris, but she has good chances," Kalinina said.

"She's an amazing player, a top player. I'm sure if she's going to (play) like this, maybe new world No 1 for sure."

The French Open begins on May 28.

Kalinina blamed pure fatigue and a left thigh injury for Saturday night's retirement from the biggest match of her career.

The 47th-ranked Ukrainian was unable to go on and threw in the towel against Rybakina on a day plagued by rain delays.

"I feel I'm at my physical limit," she said. "I felt the leg after the quarter-finals.

"I pushed myself yesterday," she said of her semi-final win over Veronika Kudermetova. "Today I started, but after two, three games I couldn't.

"I was trying, but it was absolutely impossible."

The 26-year-old, who is good friends with Rybakina, said her only goal for the moment is to recover and get back to working on her game.

"I don't have expectations. I have my goals concerning my tennis, not the ambitions about counting [ranking] points.

"I'm trying to focus on my tennis, on my game, what I have to improve. I have a lot of things to improve, I have a lot of work to do."

Kalinina said she had no second thoughts about quitting only the second final of her career.

"[Quitting] was absolutely correct, even though emotions [told me] I want to play today," she said. "After I went off court, I almost fell in the locker room because the leg started cramping. [It was] the absolutely correct decision."

Updated: May 21, 2023, 8:27 AM