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Muchova stuns Sabalenka to challenge Swiatek in French Open final

Published : 09 Jun 2023, 15:11

  DF News Desk
Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic in action during the women's singles semifinal match against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, on June 8, 2023. Photo: Xinhua by Gao Jing.

Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic claimed one of the biggest victories of her career on Thursday, beating world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, setting up a final against No. 1 Iga Swiatek at Roland Garros, reported Xinhua.

Swiatek reached the clay-court major final for the third time in four years after surviving a test from 14th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil to win at 6-2, 7-6(7).

The unseeded Muchova, who ranked 43rd, made a sensational comeback in the decider, rallying from 5-2 behind to win five games in a row to wrap up the victory 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 7-5 after a torturing battle of three hours and 13 minutes.

"I don't really know what happened," Muchova said. "It is unbelievable. I tried to keep fighting and it worked. I'm so happy."

Sabalenka, the current Australian Open champion, could have reached the final at a Grand Slam tournament for the second consecutive time when she had a match point in the eighth game of the third set, but only to see her tough opponent save it and turn the tide from the point onwards.

"At that moment, 2-5, I didn't really know if I'll make it or not. I was just thinking to try and then that she broke my serve and I can break her serve as well. I was trying to, yeah, trying to play every point and put her under pressure, try to get back into the game and mix it up with slices and don't give her easy balls, because she was serving really well," the 26-year-old said on her comeback.

Muchova converted all five break point opportunities, while the second seed made it on a mere four of 13 chances. But a colossal 53 unforced errors, almost two times against the 27 from her rival, made the difference in the match.

"I think after I lost my serve (the match got away from me)," Sabalenka said on the ninth game. "I think after that game, she kind of stepped in and started playing a little bit more aggressively, and I kind of, lost my rhythm."

In the crucial 11th game when Sabalenka serving for a 6-5 lead, she made two double faults to hand the opportunity to the Czech, who showed no mercy to break and then serve for the victory with a love game.

"She was a little bit out of radar, but she always plays great tennis, coming to the net, playing really aggressively. Like if she sees these short balls, she's coming to the net, so it's kind of a little bit tricky to build point against her," Sabalenka added.

Muchova's best record at the Grand Slam tournaments before was a semifinal appearance at the Australian Open in 2021, where she defeated the then world No.1 Ashleigh Barty to reach that stage.

Top-seeded Swiatek, surging to the semifinals without dropping a single set, was stuck in the biggest challenge this year in Paris when she played with Haddad Maia in the other semifinal.

The Polished suffered an early break in the second set, before having to save a set point in the tiebreak when trailing 6-5 behind. But the two-time Roland Garros winner restored her form and seize the chance at her first match point to take the tiebreak at 9-7.

Earlier on Thursday, Japanese Miyu Kato and Tim Puetz from Germany clinched the mixed doubles title in their first event together, recovering from one set down to outclass Bianca Andreescu of Canada and Michael Venus of New Zealand 4-6, 6-4, 10-6.

Former doubles No. 7 Puetz was contesting just his fourth mixed doubles tournament and had never advanced beyond the quarterfinals at a major in any event, while the 28-year-old Kato's previous best result was a run to the Australian Open women's doubles semifinals six years ago.