Italy's Jasmine Paolini capped a dream week at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday with a come-from-behind, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 over Anna Kalinskaya in an all-unseeded championship match at the second WTA 1000 event of the season.

Paolini, who won her first career title at a WTA 250 in Slovenia two years ago, is the second-ever Italian champion in Dubai after Sara Errani in 2016. She joins Camila Giorgi and Flavia Pennetta as Italian women to win a title of this magnitude. (Dubai was a WTA 500 when Errani won it.)

Ironically enough, Paolini beat Kalinskaya on the way to her first title in the second round, but lost to her in the fourth round of the Australian Open last month. On Sunday, the two dueled for two hours and 13 minutes in the fourth WTA 1000 fnal to feature two unseeded players since the format was introduced in 2009, and it looked as though Kalinskaya would be just the second qualifier to ever win a title of this level. The world No.40 led 6-4, 3-1, and later, served for the title at 5-4 in the decider.

But she never reached match point: In total, Paolini won 16 of the last 19 points as she sprinted through the final four games.

Paolini is the first Italian to win in Dubai since Sara Errani in 2016.

Paolini is the first Italian to win in Dubai since Sara Errani in 2016.


"I think maybe the key game was when I was down 2-0 in the second set. I was serving. I said, C'mon, you have to try to play every point, you have to try to do something. Just think about simple things. Try to serve more maybe on the backhand, some more speed on the serve, try to move the ball,' Paolini said.

"I was just thinking about easy stuff to do on court. It worked pretty well. Then I start again bad in the third set.

"I have to say at the end of the match maybe she missed some balls that she never missed all the match. It's tough. Tennis is tough mentally. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I'm happy that this time I was able to win."

In addition to wins over No. 8 seed Maria Sakkari and 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez, Paolini rallied more than one over the course of the week. In the first round, she was a set and a break down against No. 11 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, but won 10 straight games to beat the Brazilian 4-6, 6-4, 6-0. She also saved six set points in the second set of her 6-2, 7-6(6) semifinal victory over Sorana Cirstea.


This time last year, Paolini was ranked outside the world's Top 60. But after antering the week ranked No. 26, two spots off of her career-high of No. 24, she will rise to inside the Top 15 of the WTA rankings on Monday.

"I think every person has her own steps, story," Paolini said. "I need some more time to believe maybe that I could play at this level how I did this week. It's not going to be like this I know every week. It's tough. It's the best players in the world.

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

Kalinskaya was bidding to be the second qualifier to ever win a WTA 1000 title after toppling three Top 10 players—Jelena Ostapenko, Coco Gauff and world No. 1 Iga Swiatek—en route to reaching the championship match.