Paolini powers into first Grand Slam final

ITALIAN surprise packet Jasmine Paolini will enter the top 10 on Monday after reaching the 2024 Roland Garros women’s singles final. The 28-year-old by her own admission was a little late to finding her peak form, but now the Italian is one win away from becoming a Grand Slam champion.

Overnight, Paolini stormed past giant-killing teenager Mirra Andreeva – 11 years her junior – in a dominant 6-3 6-1 victory for the 12th seed to set up a massive final clash with the best player in the world and three-time French Open champion, Iga Swiatek.

“I learned a little bit later than other players. To dream is the most important thing in sport and in life,” Paolini said post-match. “I’m happy that I can be in this dream moment… It’s a great feeling to be in a Grand Slam final. It seems something impossible.”

After Andreeva won the pair’s previous battle in Madrid, this time Paolini was ready for her. She raced out to a 4-1 lead showing all of her experience on court to take control and set up the first set. Though the Russian kept pushing and Paolini was forced to survive a barrage of break points to take out the first set 6-3.

The match lasted just 73 minutes in total as Paolini won seven of the last eight games to close out the second set 6-1 and show that after a decade of trying, she would reach a Grand Slam final.

“I lost to her a couple of months ago and I told myself I had to play better. Ball after ball I was getting more relaxed. It’s tough to stay relaxed at this stage. “I just hit the ball, enjoy, it worked, so I’m really happy.”

Paolini served off an 80 per cent lip, winning 67 and 58 per cent of her first and second serve points, while saving all six break point opportunities. She took four of six chances herself, and critically hit 19 less unforced errors (10-29), while staying ahead in the winners count (14-11).

Fittingly Paolini becomes just the third Italian to reach the top 10 behind Grand Slam champion Francesca Schiavone and Sara Errani, the latter with whom Paolini steps onto court with tonight for a doubles semi-final.

Next up is Swiatek who destroyed world number three Coco Gauff in brutal fashion 6-2 6-4, and though Paolini said it was a huge challenge, she is looking forward to it and is in awe of players who can perform at such a high level consistently.

“It can happen in tennis. Every week is different. Every week is a new challenge, so it’s not easy to confirm your result every week. Just few players can do that. It’s unbelievable what the top players, like Iga, Nole (Djokovic), Jannik (Sinner) are doing. It’s something crazy.”

Swiatek spent a little more time on court, dispatching of the young Gauff in an hour and 37 minutes. The Pole broke four times to one during the match and withstood Gauff’s 27 winners (to her own 10) to be far more measured and efficient. Swiatek hit just 14 unforced errors to Gauff’s 39, and was much better off her second serve than her opponent.

“For sure it was intense,” Swiatek said post-match. In the second set it was kind of tight because we were breaking each other, but I’m happy that I was consistent with my tactics – I didn’t overthink stuff and I just went for it at the end.” 

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