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Paolini surprises herself by reaching her first Grand Slam final at the French Open

PARIS (AP) — Jasmine Paolini is struggling to believe she’s into her first Grand Slam final.

Paolini, who had never previously been past the fourth round at a major tournament, continued her run at the French Open by beating Mirra Andreeva 6-3, 6-1 in Thursday’s semifinals.

“It’s a great feeling to be in a Grand Slam final,” the 28-year-old Italian said. “I don’t know. It seems something impossible, you know, but it’s true.”

She faces two-time defending champion Iga Swiatek in Saturday’s final, the day before the men’s final.

And an Italian double is still a possibility because Jannik Sinner can reach the men’s final if he gets past Carlos Alcaraz on Friday. Win or lose, the Australian Open champion Sinner will have the No. 1 ranking on Monday.

“It’s unbelievable to see Jannik when he was 15 years old say that his dream was to be No. 1,” Paolini said. “For me it’s something different. I never dreamed to be in a Grand Slam final, and I’m here. I’m so happy.”

Paolini was far more clinical than the 17-year-old Andreeva, winning four of six break points while Andreeva was 0-6. Andreeva appeared tearful after going 4-1 down in the second set.

“I could have played better,” she said. “I had a lot of mistakes.”

Andreeva missed three break points in the fifth game of the first set on Court Philippe Chatrier. Instead of pulling back to 3-2, she trailed 4-1 and her confidence seemed to wane.

Missing a shot at deuce in the sixth game of the second set, she remonstrated with her racket.

Paoloni broke Andreeva to love in the next game, winning on her first match point with a forehand winner at the net.

She smiled broadly, clenched her fists, then praised the crowd — in two languages.

“Grazie mille, ragazzi (Thanks, guys),” Paolini said, before adding “Merci beaucoup a toute la France (Thanks a lot to all of France).”

The 23-year-old Swiatek remains on course for a fifth major, including four at Roland Garros.

After saving a match point against the former No. 1 Naomi Osaka in the second round, she won 6-2, 6-4 against Coco Gauff on Friday to extend her winning streak in Paris to 20 matches.

Swiatek has 21 career singles titles, compared to two for Paolini. Paolini’s career record at the French Open before this year was 3-5; Swiatek’s career Roland Garros record after eliminating Gauff is 34-2.

“Iga is unbelievable player,” Paolini said. “So young, but so many achievements and Grand Slams.”

Andreeva, meanwhile, leaves Roland Garros with something she worked hard to get: a photo with three-time major winner Andy Murray.

“It was a nice moment in the beginning of the tournament because I had a gift. I had, like, retro camera,” she explained. “I made a list with who I want to take a picture. Of course, Andy, he was first on the list.”

But she was reluctant to approach him.

“He was warming up, he was eating. So I was, like, ‘Well, next time, next time.’ Then on that day I saw him just talking to his team. I was, like, ‘Well, he’s busy, no, no, no,’” Andreeva continued. “My coach was, like, ‘No, you go, you do it, and after we forget about it.’ So she kind of pushed me to him. Well, finally, I had a picture with him.”


AP tennis: https://ift.tt/KLb0Iqn

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