Kalinina dedicates win to Ukraine after beating Russian

·3-min read

Anhelina Kalinina's family home in Ukraine was destroyed in a Russian attack last year.

Her elderly grandparents have had to relocate from the southern city of Nova Kakhovka - held by Russian forces - to Kyiv.

Kalinina's parents work as tennis coaches in Kyiv and she said there was a "huge, huge bomb near them, near their academy" just a few days ago.

So when Kalinina beat Russia's Veronika Kudermetova 7-5 5-7 6-2 at the Italian Open on Friday to reach the biggest final of her career, it seemed only natural she dedicated the victory to her war-torn country.

The half-filled Campo Centrale supported Kalinina loudly and some fans held up Ukrainian flags.

"It's really important to win every match, because of what Ukraine goes through," Kalinina told the crowd.

"I really hope that I give a tiny, small light, maybe some positive emotions for my country. I really hope that Ukraine a little bit enjoys this.

"I was feeling so much support," Kalinina added later. "The whole stadium was cheering me up. I have never experienced something like that."

She and Kudermetova did not shake hands after the semi-final, which lasted nearly three hours.

Kudermetova was asked if she gets along with Kalinina while their countries are at war.

"We're here, and we love what we do here. Doesn't matter from which country you are. We're athletes and that's it. We are here to play tennis," she responded.

Kalinina was born in Nova Kakhovka.

"I have no connections with Nova Kakhovka any more because everyone is in Kyiv," Kalinina said, adding it took some convincing to get her grandparents to leave after a bombing near their home.

"They are very old people," she said. "They're living, 60-65 years there. We kind of pushed them, like, 'You have to go.'"

In Saturday's final, Kalinina will face seventh-seed Elena Rybakina who beat Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 6-4 in a rain-delayed match.

Rybakina prevailed in a fairly straight-forward first set in a match delayed by more than an hour - and then interrupted - due to persistent rain.

Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open winner, gained momentum in the second set and took a 3-0 lead but Rybakina shortened the distance to 4-2 just before rain briefly forced the players off court.

Rybakina was leading 40-15 in the game when play got suspended once more but the Kazakh player came out on top after it resumed, and rallied to win five games in a row in total to seal the victory.

"It was a really tough day overall, with all the rain delays. I'm just happy to be in the final," Rybakina told a news conference.

"I didn't start that well the second set. A bit low on energy, lost my serve. So it was difficult. Then a few good shots from (Ostapenko), good serves. It changed very quickly.

"I'm happy that physically I can maintain and stay so long in the tournament till the end."

Rome is the last big warm-up before Roland Garros starts in nine days.