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Muchova upsets Sabalenka in all-time classic comeback to reach Roland-Garros final

She might have been an unlikely finalist at the start of the tournament, but Karolina Muchova turned on the style to take out the world No 2

Karolina Muchova, Roland-Garros 2023 Karolina Muchova, Roland-Garros 2023 – © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Karolina Muchova ended Aryna Sabalenka’s dreams of a second Grand Slam title and the world No 1 spot at Roland-Garros with a spectacular win, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 7-5.

This was Muchova’s second career Grand Slam semi-final, following her run at the 2021 Australian Open. Notably, she far surpassed her previous best performance in Paris, having reached only the third round in the previous two years.

She is now the fifth Czech woman to reach the Roland-Garros final, following Martina Navratilova, Lucie Safarova, Marketa Vondrousova and Barbora Krejcikova.

“I don’t really know what happened,” Muchova said on the court afterwards. “The atmosphere, the people are pushing me all the matches…I just tried to keep fighting and it worked. I’m so happy.”

Sabalenka had won their only previous meeting, but that was almost four years ago, at the 2019 WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai.

Muchova seized on her first break point opportunity to give herself the chance to serve for the set, but Sabalenka ramped up the power under pressure, lashing the forehand to save set point.

It was the Czech who took the tiebreak, though, after 68 minutes of an excellent first set, sealing it with a wonderful backhand winner down the line.

And the second set was equally tight, with Muchova taking a quick 2-0 lead before Sabalenka won the next two games to level up.

Sabalenka looked on course to use her stamina to power through the third, having the chance to serve it out for the match at 5-3, but Muchova broke back, winning three games on the bounce to level at 5-5.

When Muchova won the first point in the 11th game on the Sabalenka serve, the world No 2 stopped play to retrieve what seemed to be a restrung racquet. Yet she crumbled from a 40-15 lead, and the Czech broke once more to give herself the chance to serve out the match.

She did, with the smartest of dinked droppers to give herself triple match point, and when Sabalenka hit a return long, Muchova threw her arms in the air in elation. The pair shook hands at the net in recognition of a battle well fought.

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