Jasmine Paolini pulls off dramatic comeback to clinch Dubai title

<span>Jasmine Paolini celebrates her triumph in Dubai against Anna Kalinskaya.</span><span>Photograph: Kamran Jebreili/AP</span>
Jasmine Paolini celebrates her triumph in Dubai against Anna Kalinskaya.Photograph: Kamran Jebreili/AP

Jasmine Paolini fought hard until the death in the biggest match of her career and despite trailing Anna Kalinskaya for so much of their time on court, she turned the contest around to dramatically win 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 and become a surprise champion at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

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

Related: Iga Swiatek knocked out by qualifier Anna Kalinskaya in Dubai semi-final

For the first time in the WTA’s history, both the Dubai and Doha women’s events are categorised as 1000 tournaments, a move the WTA had hoped would facilitate more meetings between the top players. Instead, the Dubai Tennis Championships this year has seen one of the most surprising significant title runs in recent years.

Paolini had earned her place in the final by defeating Maria Sakkari, the eighth seed, and Beatriz Haddad Maia, the 11th seed, en route. Kalinskaya, a 25-year-old qualifier ranked No 40, had pulled off an even more impressive run, defeating No 9 Jelena Ostapenko, No 3 Coco Gauff and the No 1, Iga Swiatek, in succession. As she had done throughout the week, the Russian looked to take the ball early and control the baseline as she built a set and break lead at 6-4, 3-1.

But Paolini, a small, gritty baseliner with a wicked topspin forehand and massive heart, just kept on battling. She maintained her composure even as Kalinskaya reestablished control and led 5-3 in the third, serving for the match at 5-4. As Kalinskaya clearly choked under the pressure, losing her serve and nerve in an error-strewn game, Paolini was rewarded for her mental toughness as she rolled 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 clinch his sixth ATP title at the Qatar Open with a 7-6 (12), 6-4 win.

Mensik had never defeated a top 50 player prior to the ATP 250 event in Doha, but this week alone he toppled No 24 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, No 50 Andy Murray and No 5 Andrey Rublev before taking out another prominent player, Gaël Monfils, to reach the final. Throughout the week, Mensik has shown himself to be an intelligent player with an all-court game and he clearly has all the tools to continue rising up the rankings.

But it was Khachanov’s experience and superior serving in the important moments that won out in a marathon first set, with both players generating 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 rolled to a straight sets win.