Surprise finalist Jasmine Paolini next up for French Open juggernaut Iga Swiatek

Jasmine Paolini faces mission virtually impossible when she takes on world number one and defending champion Iga Swiatek in the French Open final.

While few would have bet against Swiatek reaching a third successive Paris final, Italian Paolini’s emergence from the other side of the draw was a huge surprise.

The 28-year-old had never even been past the second round at a grand slam until this year, and her 6-2 4-6 6-4 win over fourth seed Elena Rybakina in the quarter-final was one of the shocks of the tournament.

Jasmine Paolini celebrates her victory over Elena Rybakina
Jasmine Paolini celebrates her victory over Elena Rybakina (Christophe Ena/AP)

But the late bloomer has enjoyed a breakthrough year, beginning with a run to the fourth round in Australia and taking in a WTA 1000 title win in Dubai in February.

As an experienced Tour player, Paolini is certainly not likely to suffer a bout of the nerves which crippled 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva in their semi-final.

“Iga is an unbelievable player,” said Paolini. “So young, but so many achievements and grand slams. Here she won three times.

“She’s doing well week by week, and that’s not easy. So I have huge respect for her.

“But my goal is to step on court on Saturday and try to enjoy the match, to enjoy that moment and to try to play a good match and to make a good performance on court.”

Paolini has played Swiatek twice before, a 6-2 6-1 defeat in Prague six years ago and a 6-3 6-0 reverse in the first round of the 2022 US Open, which the Pole went on to win.

Since surviving a match point in the second round against Naomi Osaka, in arguably the match of the tournament, Swiatek’s route to the final has been more like a procession.

She won 20 games in a row over three matches against Marie Bouzkova (6-4 6-2), Anastasia Potapova (6-0 6-0) and Marketa Vondrousova (6-0 6-2), before rolling over Coco Gauff 6-2 6-4 in the semi-final.

Iga Swiatek shakes hands with Coco Gauff
Iga Swiatek raced past Coco Gauff in the semi-finals (Aurelien Morissard/AP)

Paolini may just have the element of surprise in her favour, though.

Swiatek said: “We played a long time ago, so I need to prepare tactically and see what her game is at now because for sure she’s playing… she has the best season, so she must have changed something.

“We’ll see because, honestly, I haven’t watched her matches, so there’s not a lot for me to say. I’ll just focus on myself and prepare tactically and try to be consistent with my tactics.”

Paolini has two shots at a Roland Garros title after reaching the final of the women’s doubles with fellow Italian Sara Errani.

They beat Marta Kostyuk and Elena-Gabriela Ruse and will face Coco Gauff and Katerina Siniakova in Sunday’s final.