Jasmine Paolini pulled off a gritty come-from-behind victory on Saturday to capture the highest-level title of her career, defeating qualifier Anna Kalinskaya 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in the WTA 1000 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final.

Paolini, the World No.26 from Italy, outlasted 40th-ranked Kalinskaya in 2 hours and 13 minutes, battling back from a break down in each of the second and third sets. With the win, Paolini claims her second career singles title on the Hologic WTA Tour, and her first at WTA 1000-level.

"I'm really happy how I managed to come back," Paolini said in press. "It's unbelievable. I don't know. I'm just so happy."

Back in the winner's circle: Paolini took home her first career singles title at WTA 250 Portoroz in 2021, defeating Kalinskaya on the way to that trophy. Since that triumph, though, Paolini had been in three finals and lost them all.

Additionally, Paolini had lost to Kalinskaya earlier this year in a high-stakes match at the Australian Open. In the first Grand Slam Round of 16 for both of them, Kalinskaya prevailed in straight sets to make a breakthrough major quarterfinal.

However, Paolini turned those statistics around on Saturday, becoming the second Italian to take home the Dubai title after Sara Errani hoisted the champion's trophy in 2016 (Dubai was a WTA 500 event that season).

Paolini is the third Italian to win a WTA 1000 title, following in the footsteps of Flavia Pennetta at 2014 Indian Wells and Camila Giorgi at 2021 Montreal.

"It's special to have this trophy in my hands," Paolini said. "Was such a great tournament. Every player was here. Yeah, was really, really tough draw. I'm just happy."

Top 15 beckons: The victory continues Paolini's recent rise up the rankings. The 28-year-old was ranked No.64 this time last year, but finished inside the year-end Top 30 for the first time in 2023. After her Dubai run, Paolini is projected to make her Top 15 debut on Monday.

"I'm proud of all the work I made this year," Paolini said. "It's not easy to bring this work in the match sometimes. Yeah, I'm playing good tennis. I played well at the end of the last season. I started well the season with second week in Australian Open.

"Now I try to be more relaxed on court, to try to think more what I have to do, to be more present every point. I think it works. 
It's not going to be every week like this, of course, but I'm trying to do my best."

Match breakdown: Kalinskaya turned the first set in her favor by breaking for 5-4 with a passing winner. The qualifier closed out the one-set lead with ease, then cracked a return winner to break Paolini in the opening game of the second set en route to 6-4, 3-1.

But Paolini started to use her strong forehands and sterling footspeed to wear down Kalinskaya, slamming a return winner to break back for 3-3. Paolini held firm and was rewarded with a break in the last game of the second set, forcing an error on set point with a crosscourt backhand.

Kalinskaya’s serve helped her build an early lead in the third set, holding for 4-2 with an ace. Kalinskaya was near the finish line when she served for the title at 5-4, but she could not fend off Paolini in that game, and the Italian leveled affairs at 5-5.

Paolini held all the momentum from there, reaching triple championship point at 6-5 after a double fault by Kalinskaya. On her first championship point, Paolini drew a long error from Kalinskaya, polishing off the comeback win.

In the match, Paolini was slightly more effective behind her first serve, winning 60 percent of those points to Kalinskaya's 53 percent. The Italian No.1 was also a hair better returning first serves as well, winning 46 percent of those points to Kalinskaya's 39 percent.