Jasmine Paolini routs Mirra Andreeva for a final date with Iga Swiatek

Jasmine Paolini into the French Open 2024 Final
Jasmine Paolini into the French Open 2024 Final (PC: Jasmine Paolini/X)

Like a hailstorm whistling through the woods to leave behind its trail of destruction, unknown and unsung Italian Jasmine Paolini demolished Russia’s Mirra Andreeva 6-3, 6-1 in the semi-finals for a final date with Iga Swiatek at the French Open.

On Thursday evening at Roland Garros, the focus was on two relatively unknown tennis players who have taken the French Open 2024 by storm. At a time when the attention has been on Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina and Coco Gauff, Paolini versus Andreeva mirrored two combatants who were ready to play bold and beautiful tennis.

Mirra had pulled off her strokes with aplomb on Wednesday, when she came up with a solid performance to deflate Sabalenka in a high-stakes game. That the Russian came up trumps in a match lasting almost 150 minutes would have drained her, physically and emotionally.

In the Grand Slams, the pinnacle of tennis, the big deal is to keep pushing and show that one win was not a flash in the pan. Indeed, for an Italian woman to showcase herself suddenly at a Grand Slam on clay has caused a flutter in Paris.

For the knowledgeable and the discerning, Paolini has not suddenly blossomed. She is 28, just that her results in the past have not been sensational. Yet, for those who check the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) website and track tennis passionately, she has shown great promise in 2024. To be sure, her performance in Melbourne at the Australian Open was defining. Her run lasted till the fourth round, which was not taken note of so prominently.

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Jasmine Paolini in Roland Garros 2024
Jasmine Paolini in Roland Garros 2024 (PC: Jasmine Paolini/X)

Where Paolini showed she was dangerous was at the mega event in the United Arab Emirates where she tore the form book to shreds and won the Dubai WTA Open, a big tournament in terms of ranking points available and the fat prize money on offer. She outslugged Anna Kalinskaya in three sets for the biggest triumph of her career so far. “I am really happy how I managed to come back,” she had said back in February. “It’s unbelievable, I don’t know, I am just so happy.”

If Dubai was a test of her mettle, the 28-year-old Paolini captured the imagination of one and all by going for the jugular in rallies on clay in Paris on Thursday. The baseline exchanges were aplenty, for that’s the way Italians play tennis. Paolini, however, reminded old-timers that she comes from a proud tradition, with Francesca Schiavone having won French Open women’s singles title in 2010.

The contest seemed tight at the beginning, but as more and more rallies flowed, Paolini settled nicely into a groove. Racing into a 3-1 lead, she had to stave off three break points to hold for 4-1. From there onwards, she was in the ascendant. Even in women’s tennis, the serve is an important weapon, and Paolini was superior, winning 80 per cent on her first serve and 67 per cent on her second.

Even though Paolini holds an Italian passport, through her father, her mother hails from Ghana but also has a Polish background. Now, she will compete in the final against Poland’s big star, Swiatek, who knows more than just the language.

“To dream is the most important thing in sport and life,” Paolini said after the match. “I am happy I could dream (of) this moment. I don’t know what to say, I am so emotional.” Paolini finished the match with 14 winners to 10 unforced errors, while Andreeva had 11 winners to 29 unforced errors.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic (PC: X)

Djokovic’s message on X:

After having to withdraw from the French Open due to a meniscus tear in his knee, Novak Djokovic posted his thoughts on social media. “In the past day(s), I had to make some tough decisions after sustaining a meniscus tear during my last match,” he said on X.

“I’m still processing it all but I am happy to update you that the surgery went well. I am so appreciative of the team of doctors who have been by my side as well as the overwhelming support I have received from my fans.

“I am going to do my best to be healthy and fit to return to the court as soon as possible. My love for this sport strong and the desire to compete at the highest level is what keeps me going. Idemoooo (keep going).”

How soon he can recover is the subject of speculation. Wimbledon is out of question, and with 49 days to go for the Paris Olympics, it may be premature to hazard a guess about his participation.

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