2023 Roland Garros: Karolina Muchova rallies to defeat Aryna Sabalenka in epic semifinal
Photo: Antonio Borga/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Karolina Muchova has advanced to her first major final in dramatic fashion as the 43rd-ranked Czech upset second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 7-5 in their 2023 Roland Garros semifinal on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The ultra-talented 26-year-old, beset by numerous injuries throughout her career, including a badly twisted ankle in Paris last year, showcased her wide variety of skills in jumping out to a 7-6, 2-0 lead.

Sabalenka, who entered the match undefeated in majors this season at 12-0 after winning the Australian Open, fought back to claim the second set in a tiebreaker and raced to a 5-2 advantage in the third set.

It would be Muchova, who had previously reached the last four at a Slam once at the 2021 Australian Open, who finished with a flourish, winning 20 of the final 24 points and the last five games to set up a championship showdown with top seed Iga Swiatek.

Muchova becomes the fifth woman from the Czech Republic to reach the Roland Garros final, joining Martina Navratilova, Lucie Safarova, Marketa Vondrousova and Barbora Krejcikova.

Muchova edges Sabalenka in instant semifinal classic

In a matchup that would showcase Muchova's all-around skills against Sabalenka's power, it was the Belarusian who showed deft touch to extricate herself from a tough service game to take a 2-1 first set lead.

The Czech would face a pair of break points in the very next game but got through it with a combination of an ace and some aggressive net play.

After digging out of 0-30 to hold, Muchova used her exquisite net play and combined it with some flowing forehands using angles to confound Sabalenka and it led to the first break of the match.

Muchova hits one of her many volleys in the semifinal classic/Photo: Antonio Borga/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images
Muchova hits one of her many volleys in the semifinal classic/Photo: Antonio Borga/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Serving for the first set, the Czech blinked and was broken back, the set eventually being decided in a tiebreaker. Muchova raced out to a 4-2 advantage behind a strong second serve only to see Sabalenka retrieve the minibreak.

At set, the world number 46 sent a backhand cross-court that opened up a backhand down the line, a clean winner that is a shot that will long live in Roland Garros lore.

Using the momentum gained from the opening set, Muchova held to love and secured a quick break to take a 2-0 lead in the second set. Sabalenka would again fight back and eventually break in the seventh game.

The Czech would draw her higher-ranked opponent into the net and then mix up the play to break back and much like the first set, the second would be settled in a tiebreaker.

Sabalenka used her forehand and big serve to build a 5-2 advantage, which she needed all of after double-faulting on set point with the score 6-4, but on the very next point, Muchova nets from an overhead that sends the match to a third set.

In the decider, fitting for a match of such high quality, both players continued to play at the highest of levels with honors even after four games.

The Belarusian's powerful ground game paid dividends as she broke the Muchova serve, which was sandwiched around a pair of holds that gave her a seemingly comfortable 5-2 edge.

That's when the match took one final dramatic turn as Muchova closed with a flourish, winning the final five games of the match and 20 of the last 24 points.

With Sabalenka unraveling, the Czech stung a gorgeous forehand winner at 5-5 to give herself the opportunity to serve for the match and at triple match point, a final scintillating backhand winner capped off a match for the ages.

The Czech celebrates after reaching her first major final/Photo: Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
The Czech celebrates after reaching her first major final/Photo: Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
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