Self-belief and the will to win helped Paolini triumph in Dubai

The Italian reveals how she was able to overcome adversity and make a stunning comeback at the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Tennis Championships


Leslie Wilson Jr

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Jasmine Paolini smiles during the trophy ceremony at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. — Photo by Muhammad Sajjad
Jasmine Paolini smiles during the trophy ceremony at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. — Photo by Muhammad Sajjad

Published: Sun 25 Feb 2024, 6:58 PM

Last updated: Sun 25 Feb 2024, 7:03 PM

Jasmine Paolini said self-confidence and belief helped her overcome adversity, and her opponent Anna Kalinskaya to win the women's singles title at the 2024 Dubai Duty Free Women’s Tennis Championships.

The Italian held her composure after losing the first set and when 5-3 down in the decider, with Kalinskaya serving for the match, to stage a stirring comeback.

The victory helped the pizza-loving 28-year-old to break into the top 20 for the first time in her career, as she rose to No. 14 (from 25) with her 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory in Dubai.

“I don't know how I managed to win the match because she was playing too well at the beginning,” Paolini said at a post-match press conference.

“The key I think was to believe that even if I was down, I could turn the match.

“Tennis is tough mentally,” she added, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I'm happy that this time I was able to win.”

At 5 foot 3 inches tall she is one of the smaller players on the tour but it was plain to see that what she may have lacked in physical stature she made up in fearlessness and a huge heart. Not to forget a big smile.

Attempting to break down the two hours and 13 minutes contests featuring two unseeded players Paolini revealed the keys to her victory.

“I tried to play maybe more on the backhand, tried to push more, to be also more relaxed, to try to take the ball earlier because if not, she was moving me much. I was running a lot,” she said.

“I try to be more relaxed on court, to try to think more on what I have to do, to be more present every point. I think it worked.”

However, she was quick to acknowledge that you can’t take anything for granted in sport and said: “It's not going to be every week like this, of course, but I'm trying to do my best. I'm proud of this.

“I'm proud of all the work I made this year. It's not easy to bring this work to the match sometimes. But yeah, I'm playing good tennis,” Paolini added.

“I'm here enjoying my tennis, enjoying the matches on the court. I'm just loving what I do, just trying to live the present, to stay there, to make the best I can do in that moment.”

“I'm really, really happy. I don't know what to say anymore.”

Paolini also narrated a story on how Kalinskaya's coach Patricia Tarabini predicted that they would meet in the Dubai final.

“I’ll tell you something. Before the quarterfinals, I met Patricia and she told me we are gonna meet in the final,” said the Italian. “I was like 'Are you crazy?' And we meet in the final. Unbelievable."

It was clear that Paolini had a lot of respect and admiration for the Argentine tennis coach, a retired top 30 singles player and former Grand Slam mixed-doubles champion.

“Patricia, she's really nice,” she said. “She speaks a little bit of Italian. She's friends with my coach. She's a really friendly person. She speaks with everybody. I think she is one of the nicest persons on tour as a coach.”

It's not common to see players wear their hearts on their sleeves and reveal their innermost feelings, but Paolini is not your stereotype modern-day athlete. She is different.

“I hope she's (Anna) going to win more matches because she's playing really, really good, really good level,” she wished the player she had just beaten to steal the Dubai title.


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