Karolina Muchova in action against Aryna Sabalenka at the French Open.© AFP
Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic saved a match point and battled back from 2-5 down in the final set to shock world number two Aryna Sabalenka and reach her maiden Grand Slam final at the French Open on Thursday. Muchova, ranked at 43, defeated the Australian Open winner 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (5/7), 7-5 in a thrilling three-hour 13-minute match and will face either defending champion Iga Swiatek or Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia in Saturday’s final.
“It’s unbelievable. I just kept fighting. But I don’t want to sound cocky, I just keep working on my game,” said Muchova.
The 26-year-old added Sabalenka to an impressive list of victims in Paris which included eighth seed Maria Sakkari in the first round and 2021 runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarter-final.
For Sabalenka, defeat ended her run of 12 successive match wins at the Slams as she paid a heavy price for 53 unforced errors while the versatile Muchova saved nine of 13 break points.
Muchova, playing in her second Grand Slam semi-final, dug deep to save two break points in the fourth game of the opening set. Her clever angles countered the raw power of Sabalenka, taking her to set point in the 10th game.
She was unable to convert that opportunity but made no mistake at the second time of asking, a wrong-footing, deep backhand giving her the set via a tiebreak after 68 minutes on court. It was the first set Sabalenka had dropped at the tournament.
Muchova was 2-0 ahead and sensing a shock triumph in the second set but Sabalenka battled back, overcoming double-faulting on a first set point in the tiebreak to level the semi-final on the second.
Suddenly the momentum was with the Belarusian who broke for 4-2 in the decider after seeing four break points come and go in the second game.
Muchova appeared doomed to wilt under the barrage. However, she saved a match point in the eighth game before incredibly racing away with the last five games to claim a famous win.
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