Paris: Unseeded Czech Karolina Muchova clinched a spot in the first Grand Slam final of her career at the French Open on Thursday, after stunning World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 7-5 in a scintillating semifinal, here.
Muchova, a former Top 20 player currently ranked No.43, erased the match point while down 5-2 in the third set, then reeled off five games in a row to upset Sabalenka.
Sabalenka, who won the Australian Open earlier this year, suffered her first loss at a 2023 Grand Slam event after starting the year 12-0 at the majors. Sabalenka can still exit Paris as World No.1 if defending champion Iga Swiatek loses in the second semifinal, later in the day.
Once again, Muchova brought her best tennis when facing the world’s top-ranked players. Muchova came into the semifinal with a 4-0 win-loss record against players ranked inside the Top 3 at the time of their meeting, and the Czech added another victory to that perfect record on Thursday.
Muchova might have to put her undefeated win-loss record against the Top 3 on the line again if she faces top-seed Swiatek in Saturday’s final. Swiatek will face No.14 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia in the second semifinal to determine Muchova’s last opponent of the fortnight.
The 26-year-old Muchova, who has been beset with injuries throughout her career, is projected to return to the Top 20 of the WTA rankings on Monday. If she wins her first Grand Slam title on Saturday, she could make her Top 10 debut.
Muchova had previously reached the 2021 Australian Open semifinals and two Wimbledon quarterfinals, but she had never passed the third round in four previous main-draw appearances in Paris. However, the Czech found top form on the clay this fortnight, dropping just one set en route to the semifinals, then coming back from the brink against Sabalenka.
Muchova becomes the fifth Czech woman to make the French Open singles final in the Open Era (since 1968), along with Martina Navratilova, Lucie Safarova, Marketa Vondrousova and Barbora Krejcikova.