Reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina beat former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko to reach the Rome Masters final. She will take on Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina in the final.
In other tennis news, former world No 1 Simona Halep is now facing a second anti-doping charge based on alleged irregularities in her biological passport.
Meanwhile, in badminton, Rio Olympic singles gold medal winner Chen Long has announced his retirement from the sport.
Here’s a look at the key stories from international sporting events through the day for 20 May, 2023:
Rybakina in Rome final
Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina fought from 4-1 down in the second set to overhaul Jelena Ostapenko on Friday to reach the final of the Italian Open.
The 6-2, 6-4 comeback from the Kazakh sent Rybakina into her fourth major final of the season after the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami.
She will bid for the trophy on Saturday against Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine, who reached the second WTA final of her career with a 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 defeat of Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova.
The winner then gave a shout-out to her country, invaded by Russia last year, as she moved into the title match at the Foro Italico.
“It’s absolutely important to try and win every match, (considering) what Ukraine is going through,” she said.
“I hope I can give a small light and maybe some positive emotions to my country.”
Rybankina will need a quick turnaround after winning a rain-interrupted semi-final in just under one and three quarter hours, aided by 33 unforced errors from 2017 Roland Garros champion Ostapenko.
The second-set fightback sealed victory for Rybakina on her first match point as her opponent dumped a volley into the net.
“It was not easy at all with the starting and stopping,” the winner said. “I need to recover for the final.
“It will be a tough match for sure. I think of course I’m more consistent, there are still a lot of things to improve. But I’m happy that physically I can maintain and stay in the tournament till the end.”
Kalinina will be the lowest ranked finalist at the tournament since 1986 and will rise to her equal career-high ranking of 28th.
Chen Long retires
Chinese badminton great Chen Long has announced his retirement aged 34, ending a decorated career that included Olympic gold and two world titles.
The former world No 1 won the Olympic crown at Rio 2016 and followed it up with silver at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
He has not played since and has now officially called it quits, following in the steps of legendary Chinese player and teammate Lin Dan, who retired in 2020.
“This is a difficult moment for me. It’s so hard to say goodbye,” Chen wrote on the Twitter-like Weibo late Friday.
“At this special moment, I’m really full of emotion. I want to say thank you to the Chinese badminton team, my family and the fans.
“Badminton is the love of my life. I was lucky enough to wear the national shirt and play for my country, because not all dreams come true in life,” he added.
Chen’s achievements were often overshadowed by the more charismatic Lin, but he was hugely successful in his own right, winning the world title in 2014 and 2015.
He also took bronze at the London 2012 Games, ensuring he retires with an Olympic medal of every colour.
Halep faces second doping charge
Former world No 1 Simona Halep has been charged with a second breach of anti-doping rules, the International Tennis Integrity Agency confirmed on Friday.
Romanian Halep has been provisionally suspended since October 2022 for testing positive for the banned substance roxadustat, which stimulates the production of red blood cells, at the US Open in August last year.
On Friday, the ITIA said the two-time Grand Slam winner has been further charged “relating to irregularities in her athlete biological passport”.
The athlete biological passport programme monitors biological data over time to identify potential doping violations.
On Friday, Halep said on Instagram that she felt “helpless facing such harassment” and denies the charges, suggesting she has been “a victim of a contamination”.
“I have lived the worst nightmare I have ever gone through in my life,” she said.
“Not only has my name been soiled in the worst possible way, but I am facing a constant determination from the ITIA, for a reason that I cannot understand, to prove my guilt while I haven’t ever thought of taking an illicit substance.”
Halep said she hoped to have the chance to prove her innocence at a hearing scheduled for the end of May.
The ITIA said it was continuing discussions with an independent tribunal and Halep’s representatives.
With text inputs from AFP
Updated through the day