On Thursday at the French Open, Karolina Muchova stunned Aryna Sabalenka by saving a match-point, advancing her to her maiden grand slam final.
In a thrilling match that lasted three hours and thirteen minutes, the unseeded Czech came back from 5-2 down in the deciding set to win 7-6 (5) 6-7 (5) 7-5.
After winning the Australian Open trophy, Belarusian Sabalenka was aiming to win consecutive grand slam titles and appeared to have succeeded.
But as she caught sight of the line, she tightened up, and Muchova made her pay.
The 26-year-old is the fourth-lowest-ranked woman to make it to this final, with a world ranking of 43.
Additionally, a player who wasn’t seeded will play in the final for the fifth consecutive year.
Muchova said with joy, “I don’t really know what occurred. The environment is fantastic. I just kept trying to fight, and it was effective. I’m overjoyed.
The Czech, who had advanced to the final four at the Australian Open in 2021, was playing in her second grand slam semi-final.
But last year, injuries severely limited her, and as a result, her ranking fell outside the top 200.
However, Muchova has been developing quickly this season and, by winning the trophy, can move up into the top 10.
Sabalenka got out to the faster start. This week, she has drawn more attention for her off-court opinions than for her tennis.
However, Muchova gradually gained control of the game and produced the first significant play, broke for 5-4.
But Sabalenka returned right away, saving a set point with a winning forehand before taking the lead with some crunching groundstrokes.
The confrontation between Muchova’s more deft abilities and Sabalenka’s raw ferocity was gripping.
The Czech player displayed expert use of angles, direction changes, and a keen willingness to approach the net.
She is not afraid of a victory either; on her second set point in the tie-break, at 6-5, she drilled a backhand down the line.
Then Muchova took advantage of her rival’s dismay to break at the beginning of the second, and the older Sabalenka might have easily faded away under a torrent of mistakes.
However, the Belarusian has defeated her top competitors this season thanks to an unwavering dedication to aggressive tennis and good resiliency.
She pushed a break up at 4-3 from a deficit of 2-0 only for Muchova to fight back.
However, Sabalenka boldly served twice to stay in the game, forcing a second tie-break.
Both players were showing signs of nervousness, as Sabalenka double-failed on her first set-point but succeeded with an overhead on the next.
Even though Muchova did an outstanding job of resisting the second seed’s initial break attempt in the decisive, a break for 4-2 allowed Sabalenka some breathing room.
When Sabalenka forced the first match point at 5-2, it appeared that the match was over. However, Muchova firmly saved it, and Sabalenka then became agitated and played her worst service game of the match.
At 5-5, Sabalenka, who had previously overcome serving yips, put down back-to-back double-faults, which gave Muchova her chance.
The Czech will now compete against top-seeded Iga Swiatek in the final after the latter defeated Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia in the other semifinal.