Sweet Karolina: Muchova makes maiden Slam final

UNSEEDED Czech Karolina Muchova has stopped a potential top two Roland Garros final after coming back from a match point down to defeat Belarusian second seed Aryna Sabalenka.

The world number two was up to a 12-game winning streak at Grand Slam’s after winning January’s Australian Open, but the talented Czech got the job done in three hours and 13 minutes, 7-6 6-7 7-5.

Ranked 43rd in the world, Muchova had to overcome going a set down in the first set before clinching the second in a tiebreak. It looked as if Sabalenka would pull away and win the match in the third, going 5-2 up and having a match point in the eighth game. Saving that and then storming home to win a massive five consecutive games, Muchova got on a roll to book her spot in the French Open final.

“Emotions, it’s been a roller coaster,” Muchova said post-match. “2-5 in the third, but I still kind of knew it’s just one break and I was waiting for my chances. … I just try to play point by point. Super glad that I turned it around and then managed to win the match.”

The former Top 20 player reached a career-high 19th in the world, yet the 26-year-old only has the one career title to-date. She is enjoying a strong 2023 season with a 19-7 record, reaching a quarter final in the two WTA 1000 events in Dubai and Indian Wells. There, she picked up wins over Belinda Bencic, Marketa Vondrousova and Victoria Azarenka to bounce back from what had been a forgettable 2022 season, finishing the year at 151st.

Fast forward to this week, and Muchova has already booked her place in the Top 20 again, at a career-high 16th. It all came about thanks to her three-set epic win over Sabalenka.

The Czech made the most of her break point opportunities, capitalising from each of her five chances, while only hitting 27 unforced errors to her opponent’s 53. She also matched her in the winners department, with only six less (38-44) for the match.

Incredibly, it was the fifth time Muchova has played a Top 3 opponent, and has won all her matches against them. That bodes well for the Roland Garros final against world number one, Iga Swiatek.

“I didn’t really even know about this statistic,” Muchova said. “It just shows me that I can play against [the Top 3]. I can compete, and obviously the matches are super close.

“Even today, match ball down, you really never know if I win or lose, but it’s great to know that I have the chance to win, and I win against the top players, and that for sure boosts my confidence.”


In the other semi-final, tournament favourite Swiatek ended Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia in straight sets, 6-2 7-6. The 14th seed had done well to reach the final four of the tournament, and did push Swiatek in the second set, but only capitalised on two of her seven break points, while Swiatek was ruthless with a 100 per cent success rate from four chances.

Winning 72 per cent of her first serve points and hitting 25 winners, the Polish star edged closer to her fourth Grand Slam title – and third Roland Garros trophy – and thanks to Muchova’s upset, will retain the world number one spot post-tournament.

“I’m just pretty happy to be in the final again,” Swiatek said post-match. “It was a tough match, and especially second set, every point counted. It was stressful in some moments, so I’m happy that I was really solid and I was able to close it in the tiebreaker.

“It wasn’t easy, and Beatriz really played well. I’m just happy.”

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