Paolini pulls away from Andreescu to make Wimbledon second-week debut

LONDON — No.7 seed Jasmine Paolini defeated Bianca Andreescu in the third round of a second straight major, winning 7-6(4), 6-1 to reach the second week of Wimbledon for the first time.

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Five weeks ago, Paolini had triumphed 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 at the same stage of Roland Garros, Andreescu’s first tournament back after a nine-month injury layoff. The Italian went on to reach her first Grand Slam final in Paris. Her repeat of that result here means she has made at least the fourth round at every major this year so far — having never reached that stage before 2024. In addition, she is the first Italian player to achieve this in the Open Era.

The Italian’s 0-3 record at Wimbledon before this week had been skewed by the fact that she had twice drawn two-time champion Petra Kvitova in her opener, losing in three sets both times. “This year, she’s pregnant, so I think I’m safe,” Paolini had joked last week in Eastbourne, where a semifinal run underlined her grass-court potential.

That was firmly on display against Andreescu, as were the improvements Paolini has made to her game recently. Having won three doubles titles and reached the Roland Garros final in the past year alongside Sara Errani, the 28-year-old’s volleying and keenness to come forward was a revelation. In total, she won 14 out of 17 points at the net.

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“Yes, I’m enjoying!” Paolini confirmed afterwards. “We are dedicating so much time and effort for doubles, me and Sara, but also my coach, trying to be better also in doubles. I think it help me a lot. I can say I feel a little bit more relaxed when I’m next to the net. I have to be always worried about because you never know. But yeah, I’m feeling a little bit better.”

Paolini will next face either No.12 seed Madison Keys or No.18 seed Marta Kostyuk as she bids to reach a second consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal.

How the match was won: Both players opened the match with statements of intent on return. A pair of ferocious down-the-line winners netted Andreescu the opening break, but Paolini brought her heavy forehand into play to respond immediately. Thereafter, the Italian was able to dominate behind her serve. Landing 66% of her first deliveries and winning 76% of those points, she did not face break point again for the rest of the match.

Former US Open champion Andreescu went toe-to-toe with Paolini in a first set that went down to the wire. At 1-1, she found a pair of aces to save two break points, and following that was also clinical on serve as she forced a tiebreak.

The opening point of the tiebreak was a spectacular all-court exchange which Andreescu finished with a counter-drop winner, but Paolini delivered the more solid play overall at the end of the set, out-manoeuvring Andreescu on the backhand side to seal her first set point.

With that under her belt, Paolini accelerated through the second set. From 1-0 down, she lost just 10 more points and did not face game point as she reeled off the last six games.

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