Jasmine Paolini did not play a hard-court tournament until she was a teenager.

Which, when you think about it, is pretty late to the game, especially when you consider hard courts account for the majority of the events on tour.

That was tough to accept for Paolini, who was born to an Italian father and a Ghanaian-Polish mother and grew up playing on the clay courts in Tuscany. 

"I think the first time I played in I played a tournament on hard court was maybe when I was 14 years old," Paolini said on the WTA Insider Podcast. "Before, maybe I practiced a few times at the National Tennis Center on hard court. But in Italy now it's a little bit better.

"But before in our region in Tuscany, there are few of them. So it's not easy to practice and to adapt for young players." 

Listen to Paolini's full interview on the latest episode of the WTA Insider Podcast:

"At the beginning, it was difficult because when I went to a tournament on hard courts, I was like, 'No, I hope clay is coming soon.'"

- Jasmine Paolini

So yes, Paolini, 28, is as surprised as anyone her two WTA titles have come on hard courts. Her biggest win came just two weeks ago in Dubai, where she captured her first WTA 1000 title to surge up the rankings to a career-high No.14. The win continued a banner season for Italian tennis, with Paolini's win coming a month after Jannik Sinner took home the men's title at the Australian Open. 

Maybe it's time to put to rest the idea that Italian tennis is at its best on the dirt. After all, who can forget the 2015 US Open final, which saw Flavia Pennetta best Roberta Vinci to become the first Italian to win a hard-court Grand Slam title. 

"At the beginning, I remember I was thinking that on clay court it's kind of a completely different tennis, which is true, but not too much," Paolini said. "It's still tennis -- on clay or hard court it's still the same. [But] I was thinking that on clay court I can use topspin, I can move better, and on hard courts I have to play on the baseline and cannot move backwards. So I was changing my game with no sense."

The key to Paolini's success? Acceptance.

"When I won my first WTA title on hard courts I was really surprised," Paolini said. "I didn't never think that my first WTA title is going to is going to be on hard court. So from that point, I think I realized that I can play well on this surface. Everybody was telling me, but I wasn't believing. 

"Now there's no reason even to complain because I know that a week can go bad. I cannot like maybe the balls or the court, I know. But I know that I have the weapons to play a good performance, you know?"

With Iga Swiatek winning Doha and Paolini taking Dubai, fans on social media were quick to joke about a Polish sweep in the Middle East. When a Polish reporter stuck around after her press conference to congratulate Paolini in Polish, Paolini laughed and thanked her in kind.

"When I was young [my mother] was speaking to me in Polish," Paolini said. "Now I can speak Polish, but I also forgot some words.

"For example, Magdalena Frech is speaking to me and I am always like, 'Please speak slow because sometimes I would like to say something in Polish and I say one word in English.' My brain is mixed a lot." 

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