Last week, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships culminated with only the fourth WTA 1000 final between unseeded players since the tier was introduced in 2009.

Both Jasmine Paolini and Anna Kalinskaya have been building toward this result for some time. Paolini, 28, was ranked No.71 last April. She lost seven of her first 10 tour-level matches of 2023 but turned her season around with a title at Florence WTA 125, along with final runs in Palermo and Monastir, and her first WTA 1000 quarterfinal, in Cincinnati.

It came as little surprise Paolini was one of the nominees for the Most Improved Player award last year, and she has continued to build off that success. In Australia, she reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time, then took out Beatriz Haddad Maia, Leylah Fernandez and Maria Sakkari en route to the Dubai title.

Paolini, who won eight sets from a break down in Dubai, soars into the Top 20 for the first time, rising 12 places from No.26 to No.14.

Kalinskaya's rapid improvement follows a three-month layoff between May and August last year because of a hamstring injury. By October, she had fallen to No.115. But the 25-year-old rebounded at the end of 2023 with consecutive WTA 125 finals, including the Midland title, and continued her momentum at the Australian Open, where she reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

In Dubai, Kalinskaya qualified before upsetting three consecutive Top 10 opponents in Jelena Ostapenko, Coco Gauff and Iga Swiatek to reach her first tour-level final. Kalinskaya is a perfect 4-0 against Top 10 players this year. Her reward is a 16-place jump from No.40 to a spot inside the Top 30 for the first time, at No.24.

Paolini posts comeback win over Kalinskaya to claim WTA 1000 Dubai title

Other notable rankings movements

Maria Sakkari (+2, No.11 to No.9): One week after dropping out of the Top 10 for the first time since September of 2021, Sakkari is back inside after reaching the third round in Dubai.

Magdalena Frech (+11, No.53 to No.42): The Pole makes her Top 50 debut after qualifying and reaching the third round of Dubai, upsetting Ekaterina Alexandrova along the way before pushing Elena Rybakina to three tight sets. Frech, who in Australia reached the fourth round of a major for the first time, was ranked No.105 this time last year.

Ashlyn Krueger (+6, No.76 to No.70): The 19-year-old American reached the second round of Dubai after notching her second career Top 25 win, over Caroline Garcia. She edges up to a new career high as a result.

McCartney Kessler (+33, No.153 to No.120): Last week, the University of Florida alumna captured her first WTA 125 title as a lucky loser in Puerto Vallarta to rise to a new career high. Kessler, 24, put together a spectacular first full pro season in 2023, rising from No.948 to No.231 over the course of the year and has continued to build on that this season. She made her tour-level debut in Auckland and won her first Grand Slam match, at the Australian Open. She also won consecutive titles this month, at the Rome ITF W75 and in Puerto Vallarta to improve her record to 13-3.

Taylah Preston (+39, No.192 to No.153): Former junior No.10 Preston turned heads in Adelaide last month when the 18-year-old Australian stretched Garcia to three sets in the first round. Last week, Preston reached her first WTA 125 final, in Puerto Vallarta, and climbs to a new career high. She is now the second-highest ranked player born in 2005, 16 places behind Linda Fruhvirtova at No.137.

Noma Noha Akugue (+19, No.202 to No.183): Last July, Noha Akugue put together an eye-catching run to the Hamburg final as a wild card playing in her first WTA main draw. But starting in September, the 20-year-old German slumped to a 12-match losing streak, falling out of the Top 200 from her peak of No.142. Last week, Noha Akugue rebounded by reaching the Porto ITF W75 final.