Italian Open semi-finalist calls opponent a ‘b***h’ before frosty handshake prompts rant | Tennis | Sport

Tempers flared during Friday’s Italian Open semi-final between Elena Rybakina and Jelena Ostapenko. The Latvian world No 20 was claimed to have called Rybakina a ‘b***h’ in Rome during the rain delay before the pair shared a frosty handshake at the net after the match.

Rybakina, who will breach the top five of the WTA rankings ahead of the French Open, reached her third Masters final of 2023 by beating Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 33 minutes.

Ostapenko’s outspoken nature seemed to get the better of her during the rain-disrupted battle on Centre Court. She wanted to play in the heavy rain while Rybakina called for a delay.

As the two players headed inside during the second set rain delay, microphones picked up Rybakina’s coach, Stefano Vukov, claiming Ostapenko had verbally abused her.

He said from the stands: “She told her you’re a b***h in front of me right now. And I say, listen, after we talk.”

Rybakina looked puzzled by the comment but let her tennis do the talking and made her feelings clear after a tense post-match handshake.

The 23-year-old Kazakh exchanged words with Ostapenko as they crossed paths off-court before she pointed at the umpire as if she wanted him to speak with her allegedly foul-mouthed opponent.

But while speaking to the media after her victory, Rybakina was only interested in discussing her performance ahead of Saturday’s final against Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina.

She said: “No, I think, of course, I’m more consistent. There are still a lot of things to improve. But, yeah, I’m happy that physically I can maintain and stay so long in the tournament till the end.

“I think it’s just overall all the years of experience and also adapting. Like I know the places where I go, so it’s a little bit easier. Also, preparation with the team. The team is bigger this year, especially.

“I have a fitness coach with me in a lot of tournaments. Physios and coaches are always with me. Yeah, I think it’s always just good work which we did.”

Whether the in-depth details of Rybakina’s verbal row with Ostapenko emerge remains to be seen.

But if Vukov heard correctly, and if what cameras picked up is any indication, the next time they take to the court together could get interesting.

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