Karolina Muchova to face No. 1 Iga Swiatek for title at ‘roller coaster’ French Open


Karolina Muchova (pictured) of the Czech Republic plays against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in a French Open semifinal on Thursday in Paris. Photo by Maya Vidon-White/UPI | License Photo

June 9 (UPI) — Karolina Muchova says her run at the 2023 French Open has been an emotional “roller coaster.” The ride will end this weekend, when she meets No. 1 Iga Swiatek for the women’s singles title in Paris.

The unseeded Czech will battle the defending champion at 9 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBC.

Muchova trailed 5-2 and faced match point in the third set of her semifinal match against No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka on Thursday at Roland Garros. The No. 43 player in the WTA rankings then fought back with five-consecutive game victories, breaking Sabalenka twice in the final set.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” Muchova told reporters after the match. “I was down 2-5 in the third, but i knew I just needed one break and was waiting for my chances. … I’m super glad I turned it around.”

Muchova will make her Grand Slam final debut. Her previous best finish came at the 2021 Australian Open semifinals. She lost in the third round at the French Open in 2021 and 2022.

Her Polish counterpart is aiming for her fourth major title. She won the 2022 U.S. Open, in addition to her 2020 and 2022 titles in Paris.

Muchova won her lone meeting against Swiatek, but that was in 2019 when the world’s top player was ranked No. 95. Swiatek said Thursday that she respects her finals foe and is very familiar with her skillset.

“I feel like I know Karolina’s game because I’ve played many practices with her since 2019, and I also watch her more than most other players,” Swiatek said after her straight-sets win over No. 14 Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil in the semifinals.

“I really like her game. I really respect her. She is a player who can do anything.”

Muchova used her soft touch, fluid movement and ability to change tempos en route to a final run at the clay court major. She started that surge with a straight-sets upset of No. 8 Maria Sakkari of Greece in the first round.

She needed three sets to beat No. 103 Nadia Podoroska of Argentina in the second round. She then bounced No. 27 Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania and Russians Elina Avanesyan (No. 134) and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (No. 333) in straight sets to clinch a spot in the semifinals.

Muchova totaled six aces, converted 5 of 5 break point chances and totaled 27 unforced errors in her 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 7-5 win over Sabalenka. Her Belarusian foe totaled 53 unforced errors and converted just 4 of 13 break point opportunities in the 3-hour, 13-minute match.

Swiatek didn’t need to play a third set through her first six matches this year in Paris. She started that run with straight-sets triumphs over No. 70 Cristina Busca of Spain, No. 102 Claire Liu of the United States and No. 80 Xinyu Wang of China.

She advanced to the quarterfinals after a fourth-round, first-set walkover from No. 66 Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine.

Swiatek beat No. 6 Coco Gauff of the United States 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, clinching the Haddad Maia meeting. Swiatek broke the Brazilian in each of her four opportunties. She totaled 25 winners in that 6-2, 7-6(7) triumph.

“On clay, I feel like I have more weapons than on faster hard courts,” Swiatek said. “I’m trying to use that confidence and feeling comfortable on the surface to focus on that more and play better.”

The winner of the Swiatek-Muchova match will win a $2.4 million first-place prize. The runner-up will earn $1.2 million. The men’s singles final will air at 9 a.m. Sunday on NBC. The competitors in that match will earn the same prize money.

Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic sends the ball over to Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus during the 2023 French Open in Paris on June 8, 2023. Muchova won 7-6, 6-7, 7-5 and qualified for the finals. Photo by Maya Vidon-White/UPI | License Photo



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