Paolini battles back against Kalinskaya to win Dubai title

Published February 26, 2024
ITALY’S Jasmine Paolini (L) and Anna Kalinskaya of Russia pose with their trophies after the Dubai Tennis Championship final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Centre.—Reuters
ITALY’S Jasmine Paolini (L) and Anna Kalinskaya of Russia pose with their trophies after the Dubai Tennis Championship final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Centre.—Reuters

DUBAI: Jasmine Paolini capped an “incredible” week in Dubai with a 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory over Russian world number 40 Anna Kalinskaya to claim the second WTA title of her career and first at the 1000 level on Saturday.

The Italian world number 26 snapped Kalinskaya’s seven-match winning streak, which including qualifying, and avenged her defeat to the Russian from last month’s Australian Open with a brave comeback performance.

Paolini was a set and 1-3 down, and also trailed 1-3 in the decider, against Kalinskaya but was at her grittiest best to ensure she became the second Italian woman to triumph in Dubai, following in the footsteps of Sara Errani.

Paolini began her campaign in Dubai with a come-from-behind win over 11th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, who led the Italian by a set and a break before getting bagelled in the decider.

Impressive victories over former US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez, eighth seed Maria Sakkari, and an in-form Sorana Cirstea followed for Paolini before her heroic effort against Kalinskaya.

In front of a packed house in Dubai on Saturday, a topsy-turvy opening set witnessed five breaks of serve but it was Kalinskaya who kept asking the questions and the Russian was rewarded with a one-set lead in 36 minutes.

Kalinskaya carved out a 2-0 opening early in the second set but Paolini struck back, finding the massive groundstrokes that carried her to the final to level things up at 3-3.

A break in the 12th game earned Paolini the second set as the final fittingly went to a decider.

The third set began with three consecutive breaks of serve, two of which went Kalinskaya’s way as she built a 3-1 advantage.

Serving for the championship, Kalinskaya netted a drop shot to allow Paolini back in the clash, the Italian evening things up at 5-5.

With the wind in her sails, Paolini never looked back, benefitting from a double fault to go up 0-40 on the Kalinskaya serve and converting her first opportunity to wrap up the victory in two hours and 13 minutes.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2024

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