Elena Rybakina vs Jelena Ostapenko
Time: 6:30 PM IST
Jelena Ostapenko displayed an impressive show of skill, delivering nearly 50 winners throughout her match against former world No. 2 Paula Badosa. Breaking serve a remarkable seven times, she secured a hard-fought victory of 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, propelling herself into the semifinals of the Italian Open for the first time. Although she later returned to the court in the evening, her doubles campaign concluded in the quarterfinals.
In previous appearances at Foro Italico, Jelena had been unable to surpass the quarterfinal stage, enduring a grueling three-hour defeat against Maria Sharapova in 2018 and squandering three match points against Karolina Pliskova in 2021. However, this time she showcased her prowess by winning four inspiring matches, earning her first clay-court semifinal since her triumphant 2017 Roland-Garros title run.
Starting the year with a quarterfinal finish at the Australian Open, her best result in a Grand Slam since Wimbledon in 2018, Jelena arrived in Rome without having achieved another last-eight showing. Seeded 20th, she overcame three of her four opponents in three sets, including a victory over Daria Kasatkina, and convincingly defeated Barbora Krejcikova 7-6, 6-0.
With a 13-9 record in semifinals on clay, the former world No. 5 continues her quest for a second career clay-court title. While her semifinal performance at WTA 1000 level or higher stands at 3-5, she aims to reach her most significant final since the 2018 Miami tournament. In the previous year, she reached three finals, capturing the title in Dubai while finishing as the runner-up in Eastbourne and Seoul.
Elena Rybakina initially faced adversity in her quarterfinal match against Iga Swiatek. However, she displayed resilience by not only coming back from a set and a 2-4 deficit but also saving all five breakpoints in the final two service games of the second set. Her tenacity paid off when the two-time defending champion suffered a right thigh injury and was forced to retire.
This victory marks Elena’s third win over the world No. 1 in as many encounters this year, and her second retirement win during the tournament, following Anna Kalinskaya’s withdrawal in the third round. She also claimed straight-set victories against Jasmine Paolini and Marketa Vondrousova. The reigning Wimbledon champion arrived in Rome with her own injury concerns, having retired in the second round of Stuttgart due to a lower back issue and experiencing an opening-round loss in Madrid. Despite her previous accomplishments as the 2019 Bucharest champion and 2020 Strasbourg finalist, she had never advanced to a clay semifinal above WTA 250 level.
However, she is enjoying a breakthrough year in WTA 1000 events. Currently ranked No. 6 in the world, she had never reached a WTA 1000 semifinal until she made back-to-back finals in Indian Wells (winning the title) and Miami (finishing as the runner-up) in March. Her overall semifinal win-loss record stands at 13-6, including an impressive 6-1 record since the beginning of 2022, with a perfect 2-0 on clay.
In their head-to-head encounters, Jelena Ostapenko holds a 2-1 advantage over Elena Rybakina. All three meetings have taken place in advanced stages of tournaments, either in quarterfinals or beyond, and all have resulted in straight-set victories. Jelena claimed victories in Linz in 2019 and Eastbourne in 2021.
Prediction: Back Ostapenko to win a set