WTA defends late start to Italian Open women's final

tennis21 May 2023 19:39| © Reuters
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The WTA defended the Italian Open's decision to reschedule the women's final between Elena Rybakina and Anhelina Kalinina to 11 p.m (2100 GMT) on a rain-affected Saturday, after former player Rennae Stubbs called the move an "abomination."

On a frustrating day for organisers of the Masters event, players and fans, the men's singles semi-final featuring Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas was interrupted multiple times because of rain with nearly five hours of play lost.

That meant Rybakina and Kalinina took to the court later in the evening with fewer supporters in the stands after organisers opted not to move the final to Sunday. An anti-climactic finish followed as Ukraine's Kalinina retired injured trailing 6-4 1-0.

Rome organisers did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment but women's tennis governing body the WTA said the driving issue with respect to the scheduling decision was the weather.

It added that it was important to ensure that more than 8,000 paying fans for the final and others who stayed through significant delays saw the contest.

"It's not the desire of the event nor the WTA to see a match go on as late as it did, but it was the right thing to do," a WTA spokesperson told Reuters via email on Sunday.

"We congratulate both players on a great effort in Rome and wish Anhelina a quick recovery for the upcoming fortnight at Roland Garros and Elena continued success."

The decision to proceed with the match was met with criticism online and there was awkwardness at the presentation when Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina was asked to speak before the runner-up and had to prompt organisers to hand her the trophy.

"What the hell is going on with this presentation? Also the fact that the women are playing a final of a 1000 (event) at midnight is an abomination," Australian Stubbs said.

World number 64 Alize Cornet said it was disappointing that the final was not moved to Sunday.

"A little sad to see that the women's final of one of the biggest @WTA events of the season is starting at 11 p.m. Nobody in the stands of course," Frenchwoman Cornet tweeted.

"Not really cool for both players to start such an important match so late. Why not put both men's and women's finals tomorrow (on Sunday)?"

Organisers of the Madrid Open recently apologised to the women's doubles finalists of this year's tournament following criticism for denying them the opportunity to make speeches at the trophy ceremony.

"These two WTA 1000s Madrid and Rome have been fiascos for women's tennis. There are no excuses but many reasons for the fiascos," former world number three Pam Shriver said.