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Paolini smiling her way into history

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London, July 10: From a journey that started as a five-year-old player in Italy’s Tuscany region, you sense that Jasmine Paolini’s broad smile, now her trademark, hasn’t wavered.
At age 28, her history-making progress is a story of step-by-step improvements and helped by her philosophy to embrace every opportunity presented in tennis.
“I was dreaming to become a professional, and I never dreamed to be, you know, No.1, [or a] Grand Slam champion,” she said as she progressed to a first Slam final at Roland-Garros last month. “Never dreamed so big. Never.”But now, as the first Italian woman to reach a Wimbledon semi-final – and with the chance to achieve the rare feat of reaching finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year – Paolini can perhaps, at last, dare to dream bigger.From never having won a WTA-level grass court match until this season, the world No.7 has now won seven of them. Her final-four campaign at the All England Club followed a semi-final run at Eastbourne.“It’s important to me to enjoy every moment because, as I said, it’s a dream,” she said at Wimbledon. “It’s also I think a privilege to play those kind of matches in those courts.” Few would dispute it’s a privilege that Paolini has worked hard to earn. Her breakthrough season started with a fourth round run at the Australian Open, marking the first time she’d progressed beyond the second round at a Grand Slam.
She subsequently claimed the second, and biggest, singles title of her career at the WTA 1000 tournament in Dubai. Having developed her game on the clay courts of Italy, it was a reward for her efforts with coach Renzo Furlan – often with the help of video analysis – to adapt her many weapons to a hard court.Her growing prowess on grass this week, featuring sparkling net play and dynamic athleticism, is helped by success in doubles. Paolini won the first of her three doubles titles alongside Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann and has since thrived alongside countrywoman Sara Errani.
The pair were finalists at Roland-Garros last month and progressed to the third round at Wimbledon. “It is so important. We are dedicating so much I think time and effort for doubles, me and Sara,” Paolini said.
She has been supported by her doubles partner in singles matches. “I can say I feel a little bit more relaxed when I’m next to the net.”
While Paolini takes inspiration from successful Italian predecessors – including Francesca Schiavone, the first Italian to lift a Grand Slam trophy (at Roland-Garros in 2010) and Flavia Pennetta, the US Open 2015 champion – she’s also proud to write her own story. (AP)

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