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Elena Rybakina targets deep run at Roland Garros after Rome triumph

ROME – 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.

The Moscow-born Kazakh won the Italian Open on Saturday, bagging her second title of 2023 after her Indian Wells hard-court triumph and fifth overall, when Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina retired while trailing 6-4, 1-0.

Wimbledon champion Rybakina, 23, 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 Ashleigh Barty.

“I think with my game, I can play good on all the surfaces,” said the world No. 6, 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 in 2022 and hoped that playing in Paris would be easier this time.

“The tournament is pretty long. Hopefully I can go far. I have good memories playing there,” she said.

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

Rybakina, who will rise to No. 4 in the world ahead of the May 28-June 11 French Open, is also 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.

She has now won 28 matches this season – only world No. 2 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,” Rybakina added.

“I think we’re doing a good job with the team. I can see improvements on the court, physically also. 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, 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 200kmh. She’s making winners like no one on tour... anyone can win in Paris, but she has good chances,” she 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.” REUTERS, AFP