INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Italy's Jasmine Paolini was barely ranked inside the Top 100 a year ago. Now the 26-year-old sits among the Top 50 in the world on the Hologic WTA Tour, where she reached a career-high No.44 in February.
Paolini captured her first WTA title last season on the hard courts of Portoroz, where she defeated Dayana Yastremska, Anna Kalinskaya, Sorana Cirstea, Yulia Putintseva, and Alison Riske to win the title. Though she scored her first Top 20 win in 2018 in Prague over Daria Kasatkina, Paolini's stunning three-set win over top seed Aryna Sabalenka at the BNP Paribas Open this week was her first career Top 10 win.
Here are five facts about the swashbuckling Italian:
1. She started tennis at 5 years old
Paolini was born in Bagni di Lucca, a small city in Tuscany. At 5 years old she picked up a tennis racquet.
"I remember that my father and my mother told me, you have to choose one sport to do," Paolini said. "In Bagni Di Lucca there was all tennis or a swimming pool and because of my uncle who was playing tennis, I decided to go to play. I enjoyed it a lot ever since I started it. I really enjoyed to be at the tennis club. We were like a big family and I had friends there. It was really nice."
2. Her first trip overseas was to New York
Paolini recalled her first trip overseas for tennis, which came as a junior in 2013. It involved a lot of M&Ms.
"I was so excited to go to the US Open as a junior. That was my first trip. New York is something that a lot of people are dreaming of. I remember I was with another good player when she was a junior and we arrived at 6:00 p.m. And we stayed out until, I don't know, 1:00 a.m. But we were 18 and we were too excited.
"It was something special. Just coming to the U.S., when you watch movies you always see the U.S. When you step here you say oh, I saw this in a movie. I think for European people watching so many U.S. movies it's something that you dream. It's not normal for us.
"I remember that we went immediately to Times Square because we wanted to watch the lights. My friend who was with me, she said, 'Oh! I saw this in a movie, Friends With Benefits.' So we went to Times Square and the M&M Shop. We ate so many candies."
3. Video analysis played a key role in her recent rise on hard courts
This time last year, Paolini was ranked just inside the Top 100 at No.99. Now a Top 50 player, she says she makes an effort to appreciate her rise over the last 12 months, while also making clear she's hungry for more.
"Before, last year, I didn't believe that I could play also on hard courts," Paolini said. "So I was playing pretty well on clay courts, but I had difficulties on hard courts.
"Now I think I believe that I can play also here. More tournaments are on hard courts instead of clay courts. I have more chances to do points. That gave me confidence during the year."
Paolini attributes her improvements to video analysis of her groundstrokes, which has led to a more effective serve and forehand on hard courts.
"I try to open a little bit less and lower the forehand [follow-through]. I was [finishing too low]. The serve, I have to improve my serve percentage and also the spin. I cannot play flat because I'm 160 centimeters. I have to be more precise, yeah, to improve the percentage. That's what we are working on.
4. She quoted Jenson Brooksby in her press conference.
After her win over Sabalenka in the second round of Indian Wells, Paolini became the first tennis player to quote ATP No.43 Jenson Brooksby in a press conference.
Paolini: “[Sabalenka’s] not a regular player. She's can hit very strong, many winners. But it's not easy to play every point full power.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) March 12, 2022
"I try to stay there, to play my game. Like Brooksby said one time, tennis is not to hit strong the ball, it's doing something different." pic.twitter.com/F3e0ofVzOL
Paolini said she's not one to remember or search out inspirational quotes, but Brooksby's words resonated with her.
"When I read this quote it stayed in my mind. I remember also in another match that I thought this, that tennis is not just hitting winners and strong the ball. Today during the match I repeat this to myself because it's important. I think for me it is important to keep it here in my mind."
5. If there's downtime, you'll find her lurking on Instagram
Paolini's favorite cuisine is Italian and her favorite dish is a classic Margherita pizza. She loves WhatsApp and pop music, but if you ever catch her staring at her phone, her app of choice is Instagram.
"But I'm not so social," Paolini said, laughing. "I don't like to post a lot. I'm a lurker!"