EASTBOURNE, England — Jasmine Paolini remains uncertain about what the grass-court season holds. But coming off her first major final appearance at Roland Garros last month, her enthusiasm is unmistakable.

With her upbeat outlook and philosophical approach to the game, Paolini had a breakthrough moment in Paris. Reflecting on her fortnight, which included reaching the finals in both singles and doubles, she fondly recalls her three matches on Court Philippe Chatrier.

But what meant the most to the 27-year-old from Tuscany was the overwhelming affection she felt from the public.

“I”m really happy about it, to give a positive image of myself,” Paolini told WTA Insider at this week’s Rothesay International. “I’m always smiling but I’m like that. I’m not forcing it. I’m happy that people like this. But I’m not making anything extra and that’s good.

“But I felt the love, honestly. Also from the country from my mom, Poland. I have a lot of support on my Instagram. It’s nice to feel that people have a good image of me.”

Paolini’s self-deprecating humor was on display when discussing her middling relationship with the grass season. Now ranked at a career-high No.7 on the PIF WTA Rankings, Paolini will be a top-eight seed at Wimbledon next week. After two weeks of a well-earned holiday in Formentera, she’s ready to see how she fares on the surface that has vexed her throughout her career.

“Grass court is interesting, that’s for sure,” Paolini said. “Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse. Sometimes I want to cry, sometimes I enjoy.”

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Across all levels, including qualifying and ITFs, the Italian Paolini has won four grass-court matches in her career. None have come at the tour level. She snagged three wins in qualifying at 2023 Eastbourne and 2017 Wimbledon. She also has a win over Aryna Sabalenka at an ITF 100K event in Ilkey in 2017. Twice she took a set off two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the first round at Wimbledon.

“I remember some years I was almost crying every day, and if I wasn’t crying I was very sad,” Paolini said. “I have to accept that things are not easy here.”

Her movement and heavy forehand form the bedrock of Paolini’s game, one that has reached new heights in 2024. It began with her WTA 1000 title run at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February, highlighting her continued improvements on hard courts. Then came Roland Garros, where she bested No.4 Elena Rybakina in the quarterfinals.

The affable Paolini is bracing herself for a shock to the system in Eastbourne.

“Sometimes on grass you feel like you are very bad at playing tennis,” Paolini said, laughing. “You serve and you get a winner return. You return and you get a winner back from the opponent. So you think, I’m really bad. You are not making any good points, you are running every point, you are just getting winners against you.

“I think that happened to me and it’s frustrating because I think I don’t understand well what I have to do well here. I was just running and I was playing short in the court.”

The low-bouncing and soft grass courts have muted her strengths. She’s still learning how to move on the surface to feel stable through the rallies. She and her trainer have been utilizing the swaths of green lawn outside of the courts at Devonshire Park to practice her stops and starts. She’s also focused on shortening her swings and making her return more effective.

But the key for Paolini is reps and hours on a grass court. Seeded No.3 in Eastbourne, she’ll face Elise Mertens in her opening match.

“I try to come here with a free mind,” Paolini said. “It’s not the same thing as the French Open, so I don’t expect anything. Good and bad things, I don’t expect anything. Just step on court and try to play my game, to adapt as best as possible, to fight for sure, and to understand better the game because it’s not the same.”

“But every year I get more experience. So hopefully this year is going to be better, but I don’t want to put pressure because it’s already too much.”

Source: https://www.wtatennis.com/news/4044745/after-french-open-success-paolini-braces-for-the-challenge-on-grass

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