Reigning champion and world number one Iga Swiatek swept into the French Open final on Thursday after unheralded Karolina Muchova saved a match point before stunning second seed Aryna Sabalenka. Swiatek defeated Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-2, 7-6 (9/7) and will face the 43rd-ranked Muchova from the Czech Republic on Saturday as she targets a third Roland Garros title in four years.
The 22-year-old Pole, who improved her record in Paris to 27-2, is bidding to become the first woman to successfully defend the title since Justine Henin in 2007. She is also the youngest woman to reach three French Open finals since Monica Seles at the start of the 1990s.
“It’s really amazing. Honestly It’s tough to play such a long tournament and I’m pretty happy I am able to play consistently and every year have a good result here, and I am pretty excited for Saturday,” said Swiatek. Haddad Maia, the first Brazilian woman to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since seven-time major winner Maria Bueno in 1968, broke Swiatek to love in the opening game but the top seed soon took charge.
Swiatek won five of the next six games before breaking Haddad Maia for a third time to close out the set. Haddad Maia clawed out a 3-1 lead in the second set but Swiatek pocketed the next three games.
She fended off three break points at 4-all and saved a set point in the tie-break before halting the run of the 27-year-old left-hander who had never got past the second round of a Grand Slam before this French Open.
“It wasn’t easy, she’s a fighter and she showed that,” said Swiatek. “I knew I had to be ready for every game and that the momentum could change really quickly and that’s why I played so well in the tie-breaker.”
Muchova rallies from the brink
Muchova will play her first Grand Slam final after overturning a 5-2 deficit in the final set to knock out Australian Open champion Sabalenka and snap the Belarusian’s 12-match winning run at majors.
“I don’t really know what happened. It’s unbelievable, I tried to keep fighting and it worked. I’m so happy,” said Muchova after her 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (5/7), 7-5 victory. She 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.
“I had a lot of opportunities, and I didn’t use it. I’m very disappointed with this tough loss,” said Sabalenka.
“I definitely have to learn something from this match and come back stronger.”
Only three women ranked lower than Muchova — plagued by injuries for much of career — have made the final before in Paris, including the then-teenaged Swiatek who was 54th when she claimed her maiden Grand Slam title in 2020.
Muchova saved two break points in the fourth game of the opener and then broke Sabalenka at 4-4 to leave herself serving for the set.
Sabalenka fought off a set point as she broke back and then moved 5-4 ahead in the tie-break, but Muchova stood firm and the Czech seized her second chance by ripping a superb backhand down the line.
Muchova broke for a 2-0 lead in the second set only for Sabalenka to reply right away. The second seed nudged in front with a break for 4-3 but this time Muchova was quick to level.
Sabalenka took charge in another tie-break and conjured two set points, double faulting on the first but converting the second with a powerful overhead.
Suddenly the momentum was with Sabalenka 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 after three hours and 13 minutes. “It was a hell of a fight, and I put everything out there. It paid off,” said Muchova.
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