Let’s set the scene: It’s Saturday, week two of this year’s Roland Garros. The women’s finals. World No. 1 Iga Świątek, the most consistent star of women’s tennis, who at 22 years old has lost just 20% of her 302 matches played, was facing unseeded Karolína Muchová, a player with just one career title and a single Slam semifinal from two years ago.
And yet, this was one of the most highly anticipated tennis matches of this year so far. Why? Consistency came face-to-face with raw talent on one of the biggest stages in tennis.
Świątek’s game is powerful, reliable, consistent. But Muchová is a magician on the court. With an excellent all-around game and a tennis IQ that can creep up on any opponent, Muchová has been a real sleeping giant on the women’s tour. She also knows her way around the world’s top players: The Czech has never lost to a top-3 player she’s faced, going five-for-five heading into the final.
Though Muchová displayed a truly considerable effort, it was Świątek who eventually came away with the win with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 scoreline, earning her fourth Grand Slam title.
The first set was nothing short of a classic Świątek masterclass, with the Pole taking the set 6-2, just two games short of a bagel. The second set, though, delivered the action-packed tennis fans had been anxiously awaiting.
The entire set had some fantastic tennis on display, but none greater than in the final stretch. At 6-5, with Muchová serving for the set, viewers got the joy of watching some of the most exciting points in the women’s tournament so far. A 12-shot rally that sent the game into deuce with a forced error was a real contender for point of the match.
What’s more, with her eventual second-set victory — after finally clinching the set following three set points and almost letting her lead slip into a tiebreak — the 26-year-old Muchová became the first player to take a set off Świątek in a Grand Slam final. For the record, this is Świątek’s fourth Slam final, three years after she won her first on the same clay at Roland Garros.
The match showed off just what fans and players love about clay: the long points, the power players are able to wield on the slower courts, the skids. Muchová’s all-court game made the rallies a sight to see as she gave the Pole a run for her money.
Long, exciting rallies in the second featured Muchová finishing out points at the net, with eight net points won to Świątek’s zero, while Świątek led her opponent in passing shots, with 11 to Muchová’s one.
In the third set, after both players were on serve at 3-3, it finally happened — a Muchová break. 4-3, and the Czech was up to serve. Before you know it, Świątek was up 15-40, threatening to break back, but a misstep at the net followed by a Muchová ace took us right up to deuce. A bungled drop shot from Muchová took the two young players back to the drawing board, back on serve with four games apiece.
Świątek held her next service game and shortly found herself 15-40 at 5-4 on the set — one point away from her fourth Grand Slam title. The tension would end there as the exciting match ended in quite an anticlimactic fashion: A Muchová double fault gave Świątek the win.
The odds were stacked against Muchová going into the match; Świątek is, even in such youth, one of the best women’s players the tennis world has ever seen. That being said, the match definitely lived up to its expectations in having the most elite tennis on display from the two Eastern Europeans.
This was only the duo’s second-ever matchup and their first meeting in four years. If every match between these two going forward will feature such masterful play, then one can only hope this match is the second in a long line of showdowns to come.
Taking away more hardware from Paris, Świątek continues to separate from the pack as the best player in the world. And Muchova, who jumped from No. 43 to No. 16, will be the one to watch in the coming months, finally, after injuries that plagued her for months, emerging as a considerable threat to the tour’s top players.
With Wimbledon coming up in less than a month, Świątek will have an opportunity to finally make a deep run on grass — her best result at Wimbledon being the fourth round, two years ago — while Muchová enters the grass court swing facing a world of expectations.