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By Richard Pagliaro | @TennisNow | Thursday, June 6, 2024


Jasmine Paolini swept 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva 6-3, 6-1 storming into a Roland Garros final showdown vs. world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

Photo credit: Dan Istitene/Getty

Growing up looking up to most opponents, Jasmine Paolini had one simple wish: To be taller.

Today, the 5’4” Paolini was a towering presence in the biggest match of her life.

Jazz Rocks: Paolini Shocks Rybakina

Playing with calm conviction, Paolini pounded jittery teenager Mirra Andreeva 6-3, 6-1, storming into her maiden major final at Roland Garros.

The vertically-challenged Paolini never downsizes dreams: She will contest both the singles and doubles finals in Paris.

"To dream, I think, is the most important thing in sport, and in life," Paolini said. "So yeah I'm happy I could dream this moment." 

The dream run continues for Paolini, who had never been past a Grand Slam second round prior to this season.

Now, the 28-year-old Paolini is the first Italian woman to reach the French Open final since her doubles partner Sara Errani lost the 2012 final to Maria Sharapova. Errani was in the support box today and saw Paolini play with purpose from the first ball.

The 11-year-age gap between Paolini and the 17-year-old Andreeva was the biggest age disparity since the 1985 French Open semifinal when a 30-year-old Chrissie Evert beat a 15-year-old Gabriela Sabatini.

Experience was evident as Paolini played with much more composure and care avenging her Mutua Madrid Open loss to Andreeva.

Spare a thought for Andreeva, who played brilliantly upsetting an ill No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka yesterday, but could not master the nerves today. Still, Andreeva has an immense upside, is a blast to watch at her best and absolutely will be heard from again as a major title contender.

"Was a tough match; she’s playing unbelievable—she’s 17 years old,” Paolini said. “She’s so complete so I was a little bit nervous before the match. I lost to her a month ago so I was like you have to do better.

“Today, I was nervous in the first set, but then ball after ball I was getting relaxed. I know it’s tough to be relaxed in this stage. I’m really happy I was able to win the match in the end.”

A clean Paolini converted four of six break points, saved all six break points she faced, committed just 10 unforced errors compared to 30 for her opponent and reeled off five games in a row to close in 73 minutes.

The victory vaults Paolini to a career-high ranking of No. 7 as she will play to become the first Italian woman to win Roland Garros since an inspired Francesca Schiavone surprised Samantha Stosur in the 2010 French Open final.

The biggest challenge of Paolini’s career awaits on Saturday in the form of three-time French Open champion Iga Swiatek.

World No. 1 Swiatek dismissed US Open champion Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4 storming into her fourth Roland Garros final earlier today.

Playing for a French Open three-peat, Swiatek not only rides a 20-match Roland Garros win streak into the title match, she has obliterated Paolini in two prior meetings surrendering just six games in four prior sets they’ve played.

While Madrid and Rome champion Swiatek, who rides a streak of nine straight finals wins into the title match, is obviously a massive favorite, don’t rain on Paolini’s parade just yet.

Remember, Paolini has spent much of her pro career overlooked and discounted.

Yet Paolini has produced a career-best six straight clay court wins, knocked off Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina and is playing her most dynamic tennis heading into her first career clay-court final.

Playing the teenager’s forehand in some early exchanges, Paolini drew a netted forehand drawing first-break blood for 3-1.

In the following game, Andreeva earned three break points, but couldn’t find net clearance when she needed it.

On the third break point, Paolini flattened a forehand that crashed into the tape, plopped in the air, hit the tape again and then settled on Andreeva’s side. That fortuitous bounce helped the Italian consolidate for 4-1.

World No. 38 Andreeva made her push in the seventh game rallying from 40-love down to earn a pair of break points. Paolini carved out a slick drop shot winner to save the second break point.

Dancing around her backhand, Paolini pumped a forehand down the line. That strike helped her work through a hard-fought hold for 5-2.

Through the set, Paolini’s clarity and composure were keys. She showed both those strengths serving out the opening set at 15. Andreeva, who failed to convert any of her five break points, scattered 17 unforced errors, many into net, while Paolini gave up just six errors.

Fifty-five minutes into the match, Andreeva was facing triple break point. The teenager saved the first net but pasted a drive net on the third. Paolini scored her second break for a 2-1 second-set lead.

Riding a career-best five-match winning streak into this semifinal, including victories over Grand Slam champions Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka, Andreeva showed poise and court sense far beyond her years with this maiden semifinal run.

Today, the moment—and Paolini’s depth and consistency—was a bit too much for the teenager as the Italian held at 30 to back up the break for a 6-3, 3-1 lead.

The backhand is Andreeva’s best stroke so you know she’s nervous when she sprays her two-hander as she did giving up a second straight break and a 4-1 lead to Paolini.

Slashing a forehand down the line pushed Paolini to triple match point.

Working the ball corner to corner, Paolini fittingly finished with her signature shot, the crosscourt forehand, firing one final winner to close a poised performance in 73 minutes.

It's been a breakout season for Paolini, who reeled off 16 of the final 19 points fighting off qualifier Anna Kalinskaya 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, in a dramatic Dubai Duty Free Championships final comeback victory.

That WTA 1000 title run was a career pinnacle for Paolini, who now aims to climb twin peaks winning Roland Garros singles and doubles championships and realizing dreams even she never dared to dream.

"When I started to play tennis, I was just enjoying. Yeah, I was not dreaming too much," Paolini said. "I was just enjoying playing tennis.

"Then I started to train like a professional tennis player. I was dreaming to become a professional, and I never dreamed to be, you know, No. 1, Grand Slam champion. Never dreamed so big. Never.

"Never maybe dream to be in the top 10, but I was hoping, but not really believe it, you know, believe in this. I think step by step I started to believe, but to dream, but for closer things."


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