Jasmine Paolini makes a dramatic comeback to claim Dubai title | tennis

Jasmine Paolini fought hard to the death in the biggest match of her career and despite trailing Anna Kalinskaya on court for so long, she turned the contest around, winning dramatically 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 and becoming a surprise winner at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Over the past few years, Paolini has gradually risen up the rankings, improving each year and learning how to impose her game and forehand on bigger and stronger opponents. By winning by far the biggest title of her career at the WTA 1000 event, only her second title overall, the 28-year-old will break into the top 20 for the first time in her career and move up to No. 14, her best ranking from her current one No. 26.

For the first time in WTA history, both the Dubai and Doha women’s events will be categorized as 1000 tournaments, a move the WTA had hoped would allow more meetings between the top players. Instead, this year’s Dubai Tennis Championships saw one of the most surprising and significant title races in recent years.

Paolini had secured her place in the final by defeating number eight seed Maria Sakkari and number 11 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia along the way. Kalinskaya, a 25-year-old qualifier ranked No. 40, had put together an even more impressive run, defeating No. 9 Jelena Ostapenko, No. 3 Coco Gauff and No. 1 Iga Swiatek in succession. As she had done all week, the Russian looked to win the ball early and control the baseline as she built a set and break lead at 6-4, 3-1.

But Paolini, a small, courageous baseliner with a great topspin forehand and a huge heart, just kept fighting. She maintained her composure even as Kalinskaya regained control, leading 5-3 in the third round and serving for the match at 5-4. While Kalinskaya clearly suffocated under the pressure, losing her serve and her nerve in an error-filled game, Paolini was rewarded for her mental toughness as she powered through the final four games to secure victory.

Meanwhile, Karen Khachanov held on despite an extremely difficult challenge from 18-year-old Jakub Mensik to secure his sixth ATP title at the Qatar Open with a 7-6 (12), 6-4 win.

Karen Khachanov kisses his trophy after winning the Qatar Open. Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images

Mensik had never defeated a top 50 player before the ATP 250 event in Doha, but this week alone he defeated No. 24 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, No. 50 Andy Murray and No. 5 Andrey Rublev, before eliminating another prominent player, Gaël Monfils, to reach the final. Over the course of the week, Mensik proved that he is a smart player with an all-court game, and he clearly has all the tools to continue climbing the rankings.

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But it was Khachanov’s experience and superior serving in key moments that carried the day in a marathon first set, with both players scoring four set points before Khachanov edged out the tiebreak. With the first set secured, the 27-year-old Russian maintained his momentum by breaking serve early and secured the win in straight sets.

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