Paris, Jun 8 (EFE).- Karolina Muchova battled back from a big third-set deficit and saved a match point to defeat world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (5-7), 7-5 in French Open women’s semifinal action on Thursday.
The unseeded Czech player will next square off in Saturday’s championship match against Polish world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who defeated 14th-seeded Brazilian Beatriz Haddad-Maia 6-2, 7-6 (9-7) in the evening contest and is now one victory away from her third Roland Garros title in four years.
In an extremely hard-fought and closely contested first semifinal, Muchova showcased her all-court game to draw first blood with a service break in the ninth game of the first set.
But Sabalenka broke back in the very next game, relying on massive baseline hitting to level the contest at 5-5.
In the tiebreaker, two costly unforced errors off the racket of the Belarusian world No. 2 gave Muchova a set point, which she converted thanks to a beautifully constructed point in which she floated a slice return deep to a spot near the center mark, moved Sabalenka to one corner of the court and then stroked a backhand down-the-line winner to the other corner.
The second set was a roller coaster, with Sabalenka rallying from an early 2-0 deficit to take a 4-3 lead with a service break in hand but then committing three consecutive unforced errors to hand the break right back.
The Belarusian, however, steadied herself in the tiebreaker and leveled the match by forcing an error with an overhead on set point.
Massive hitting by the world No. 2 gave her a service-break lead at 4-2 in the third set, and she then appeared to have the victory in the bag when she held serve in the next game and arrived at match point with Muchova serving down 2-5, 30-40.
Muchova had other ideas though.
She saved that match point with a forehand winner and then proceeded to reel off four straight games thanks to some outstanding returns of serve.
The Czech world No. 43 then calmly served out the match at 6-5 to clinch victory in three hours and 13 minutes and reach her maiden Grand Slam final, forcing an error on match point with one last well-struck backhand down-the-line.
“I was ready to leave it all out there. I did. At that moment, 2-5, I didn’t really know if I’ll make it or not,” Muchova said in the post-match press conference.
“I was 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.”
In Thursday’s second women’s singles semifinal, Swiatek appeared to have the match under control after reeling off four straight games to claim the opening set.
But the second set lasted an hour and 25 minutes and was a nip-and-tuck battle that the Polish superstar managed to win despite committing 19 unforced errors and having to save a set point in the tiebreaker.
Swiatek finally ended her Brazilian opponent’s surprise Roland Garros run with a pair of potent forehands on match point – one that produced a high, short ball and another that she angled away for a clean winner.
“It’s really amazing. Honestly, it’s just tough to play a long tournament. I’m really happy I’m able to play consistently. I’m pretty excited to play another day and see how it’s going to go,” the world No. 1 said of her opportunity to win the fourth Grand Slam title of her career on Saturday. EFE