Paolini wins Dubai to secure first WTA 1000 title

ITALIAN 28-year-old Jasmine Paolini came from a set down to defeat Anna Kalinskaya overnight and lock in the highest level title of her career – just her second overall – by ending the run of the Russian qualifier, 4-6 7-5 7-5 at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Both players had taken some big scalps throughout the tournament, with Paolini knocking out Maria Sakkari, while Kalinskaya took down Iga Swiatek to become the first qualifier in four years to defeat the world number one, and only the second qualifier in WTA Tour history to reach a WTA 1000 final.

Unfortunately for the Russian, she could not take the next step despite winning the first set, with the determined Italian continuing her great form to win in two hours and 13 minutes. It was a battle for the ages with Kalinskaya going up a break in each of the second and third sets, but Paolini levelled back on serve each time before breaking just before respective tiebreakers and taking out both sets.

Paolini won 60 and 55 per cent of her first and second serve points, as both her and Kalinskaya struggled to hold serve throughout the contest. She broke her opponent seven times from nine chances, while Kalinskaya collected six breaks of serve from eight opportunities. It continually opened the door to get one-up on the other if they could hold serve, but only a combined 21 of the 34 games were service holds.

The final marked Paolini’s fourth in her WTA Tour career, with the 28-year-old winning her maiden title in 2021 at Portoroz, a 250 event, before going down in three similar events across the last 18 months in Romania, Tunisia and her home tournament at Palermo. This time though in Dubai, Kalinskaya would step up to produce a memorable win, with the world number 26 set to surpass her career-best ranking on Monday.

“I’m really happy how I managed to come back,” Paolini said post-match. “It’s unbelievable. I don’t know. I’m just so happy.

“It’s special to have this trophy in my hands. “Was such a great tournament. Every player was here. Yeah, was really, really tough draw. I’m just happy.”

Paolini will rise up to world number 14 with the title, boosting her ranking by 12 spots. Kalinskaya will also receive a significant boost, with the world number 40 shooting past her previous career best of 38th up to 24th in the world. She will be the fifth highest ranked Russian on Tour.

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