ROME — Jasmine Paolini is ready for her homecoming. The 28-year-old from Tuscany returns to her home tournament at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia amid a career-best season, ranked at a career-high World No.12. The highlight of the year so far was her breakthrough WTA 1000 win in February at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

It’s a remarkable surge for a player who only cracked the Top 30 last season.

“I would say the key words now for me is to ‘enjoy the moment’,” Paolini told reporters at Media Day at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Tuesday.

“It’s a little bit different. I have a little bit maybe more attention on myself. But I’m trying to enjoy, to live the present, to enjoy the moment because it’s nice to be in this position. It’s also nice to play great matches against top players.”

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With each quality performance against top opposition, Paolini’s belief and confidence have grown. In Dubai, she ousted Beatriz Haddad Maia, Leylah Fernandez, Maria Sakkari and Sorana Cirstea before beating Anna Kalinskaya in three tough sets for the biggest title of her career.

There has been no hangover. Paolini made the Round of 16 or better in three of her next four tournaments. At the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, she earned her first Top 10 win of the season over Ons Jabeur and pushed eventual champion Elena Rybakina deep into a third set.

Of course, the spotlight will shine brighter on Paolini in Rome, especially after Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner withdrew from the men’s tournament due to injury. Without Sinner, Paolini is the only Top 20 Italian in either draw.

“Yeah, it’s a little bit different,” Paolini said. “I mean, I’m the same person. It’s kind of weird because I came here as a top-seeded player, which is different for me. I have more attention from Italian fans, I think. Even because tennis is growing so fast in Italy because of Jannik, because of all the guys who are doing well, it’s a little bit different.

“But it’s nice. It’s nice to have some more attention on tennis.”

Paolini posts comeback win over Kalinskaya to claim WTA 1000 Dubai title

Paolini doesn’t need to look far for advice on handling the pressures of playing at home. Her good friend and doubles partner Sara Errani has been a valuable mentor, dispatching her insights from being a part of Italy’s “Golden Generation” alongside 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, 2015 US Open champion Flavia Pennetta and US Open runner-up Roberta Vinci. Errani herself was the 2012 French Open runner-up.

That “Fab Four” became the first four Italian women to rank in the Top 10 in singles. Paolini is a stone’s throw away from becoming the fifth.

“Of course, I’m drawing inspiration,” Paolini said. “I have by my side almost every day because we play doubles so long, Sara. I’m asking her advices, questions. She’s been a top player, No.5 in the world. I think she can give me some good advice.

“I just saw Flavia Pennetta here before. It’s nice to have those players around. We were watching them when they were winning Fed Cup, Slams.”

It won’t take too much for Paolini to post the best Rome result of her career. She has never progressed past the second round. After a first-round bye, she will face either Petra Martic or Mayar Sherif for a spot in the third round.


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