No.4 seed Jasmine Paolini delighted home fans by defeating Taylor Townsend 6-3, 7-5 to claim the inaugural Firenze Ladies Open WTA 125 title.
It was the second trophy at WTA 125 level for the Italian following Bol 2021. Paolini also collected her only main-tour title at Portoroz 2021.
"For me, it was a great week," said Paolini. "After so many days of rain, playing with the sun in front of this crowd was wonderful. I couldn't hope to finish better than this."
Paolini and Townsend were continuing resurgent form following strong performances in Rome last week. Townsend's 2023 record prior to Rome was 3-7, but the American scored her first Top 3 win over Jessica Pegula to reach the third round. Paolini was just 7-12 going into the second clay WTA 1000 of the season but pushed eventual champion Elena Rybakina hard in a 7-6(4), 6-1 second-round loss.
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Both finalists had to battle hard to reach the title match. Paolini was taken to three sets in all of her matches prior to the final, a run that included two overtime tiebreaks -- over Katie Swan 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(7) in the first round and over No.8 seed Lucia Bronzetti 7-6(11), 2-6, 6-2 in the semifinals. Townsend had to save one match point in the second set, then overturn a 3-0 double-break deficit, in the other semifinal to triumph over No.6 seed Sara Errani 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.
Townsend had also denied another Italian, 20-year-old wild card Matilde Paoletti, 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. But she couldn't pull off a trio of wins over home players in the final. In what was frequently a battle of the forehands, Paolini proved both more aggressive and more accurate. The World No.65 tallied 18 groundstroke winners to eight unforced errors compared to Townsend's 12 winners and 18 unforced errors.
Paolini's power also successfully kept Townsend at bay from her preferred tactical territory of the forecourt. She was also resilient in key passages of play. Throughout the second set, Paolini repeatedly challenged the Townsend serve, only for the 27-year-old to fend off the first four break points she faced in that set. But Paolini finally broke through at 5-5, then saved three break points against her to close out the title on her second championship point.
Notable early upsets came courtesy of No.294-ranked Paoletti and Kaja Juvan. Paoletti posted the first Top 100 win of her career over No.5 seed Jule Niemeier 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in her opener, and backed that up by saving two match points to beat fellow Italian Nuria Brancaccio 2-6, 7-6(2) 6-4 in the second round.
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No.130-ranked Juvan was returning from a two-month hiatus the Slovenian took following the death of her father, Robert. The former World No.58 took out No.2 seed Claire Liu 6-0, 5-7, 6-4 in the first round before falling 7-6(6), 6-3 to Eugenie Bouchard in the second. In a quarterfinal clash of former Grand Slam finalists, Errani advanced over Bouchard when the Canadian retired trailing 6-3, 1-0 due to a left knee injury.
No.4 seeds Vivian Heisen and Ingrid Neel defeated No.1 seeds Asia Muhammad and Giuliana Olmos 1-6, 6-2, [10-8] in the doubles final to claim their first title as a team. It was Heisen's first WTA 125 trophy; the German had previously been runner-up at Sydney 2022 with Panna Udvardy, and at the Marbella 125 in the same year with Katarzyna Kawa. Estonia's Neel had previously been the 2021 Bogota champion alongside Elixane Lechemia.