No.3 seed Jasmine Paolini stormed to the biggest title of her career to date with a 6-2, 7-6(4) victory over No.2 seed Arantxa Rus in the final of the Croatia Bol Open.
The Italian was playing her second WTA 125 final, having lost out to Viktorija Golubic in Saint-Malo a month ago. She dropped just one set across the week, defeating Olga Govortsova 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in the second round.
Aside from that, Paolini, 25, delivered a succession of dominant performances culminating in back-to-back victories over the tournament's top two seeds. She needed only 68 minutes to get past Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4, 6-1 in the first round, 62 minutes to dismiss Kristina Kucova 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals and 63 minutes to upset No.1 seed Anna Blinkova 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals.
Paolini had overcome a 0-2 prior record to beat Blinkova, and faced a similar task against Rus. The Dutchwoman had won both of their previous matches in straight sets. But a brilliant start from Paolini saw the World No.91 on the front foot with swashbuckling aggression in almost every point.
Dictating play with her forehand, Paolini conjured up a stream of winners as she broke Rus three times en route to the first set.
Like Paolini, Rus had also lost one previous WTA 125 final, Taipei 2017 to Belinda Bencic, and was bidding for the biggest title of her career. The 30-year-old took advantage of a flurry of Paolini errors at the start of the second set to turn momentum in her favour.
But from 1-4 down, Paolini gradually rediscovered enough of her rhythm to cling on to the set. A key turning point came as Rus served for it at 5-4, 30-30: Paolini blitzed a return on to the baseline that was initially called out, but overruled as a winner, the difference between a set point and break-back point.
Boldness also paid off in the ensuing tiebreak as Paolini hammered an inside-in forehand winner after one of the best rallies of the match to set up double championship point. She converted the first after Rus sent a backhand wide.
The victory continues a tradition of June success for Paolini. She has won each of her three biggest titles on clay in this month, with the Bol trophy joining those from the 2017 Marseille ITF W100 and 2019 Brescia ITF W60.
Two-time defending champion Tamara Zidansek had been unable to return to Bol this year due to her semifinal run at Roland Garros. Paolini will be hoping that the title is a springboard to similar success.
An all-unseeded doubles final saw Aliona Bolsova and Katarzyna Kawa each capture their first WTA 125 title with a 6-1, 4-6, [10-6] defeat of Ekaterine Gorgodze and Tereza Mihalikova.
Former Wimbledon champion Claire Liu also had a memorable week in Bol after playing two of the three longest matches of the tournament. The American defeated No.5 seed Sara Errani 6-7(3), 7-5, 7-6(1) in three hours and 24 minutes in the second round, but lost her quarterfinal 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 to Rus in two hours and 59 minutes.
Romania's Irina Bara also reached her first WTA 125 semifinal, coming from a set and 0-3 down to overhaul No.4 seed Martina Trevisan 2-6, 7-5, 6-0 in the quarterfinals.