Mon, 02 Oct 2023

Just over four years on from their first meeting at a rain-affected Prague Open, Iga Swiatek and Karolina Muchova will play at a sun-drenched French Open for the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, one of the circuit's most prestigious prizes.

In April 2019, both Swiatek and Muchova were around 100 places down a food chain run by the likes of Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty.

But while Swiatek has risen to the top with a clutch of titles including a US Open and two French Open crowns, Muchova, beset by injuries, has been less prolific.

The Seoul Open from 2019 remains her only trophy. But there have been surges of brilliance: the semi-final at the Australian Open in 2021 and the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2019 and 2021.

Still nothing to boast about in comparison with her illustrious opponent in the final on Saturday afternoon on Court Phillipe Chatrier.


Swiatek, who celebrated her 22nd birthday on 31 May, enters the showdown as the - appropriate for weather over the past fortnight in Paris - boiling hot favourite.

In the four matches before her last eight clash against the sixth seed Coco Gauff, she had lost only nine games.

And though the 19-year-old pushed her in the opening set with a ploy of sending looping shots to her forehand, Swiatek put down the American's challenge 6-4, 6-2.

Beatriz Haddad Maia displayed a tad more effrontery in the semi-final. The 27-year-old Brazilian enjoyed a set point at 6-5 during the second set tiebreak but could not exploit the opening. And she was soon hustled out of the tournament 6-2, 7-6

Muchova, who saved a match point during her extraordinary resurrection in the final set against Aryna Sabalenka, possesses the guile and craft to outwit the Pole who appears to have absorbed the thinking of the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu: keep friends close and enemies closer.


"I feel like I know Karolina's game because I played many practices with her since 2019," said Swiatek.

"And I also watch her actually more than most of the players. Just a coincidence, but it happened."

Yeah, sure Iga. Be ready for the threat might be another explanation.

"I really like her game," added Swiatek. "I really respect her. She's a player who can do anything. She has great touch. She can also speed up the game.

"She plays with that kind of freedom in her movements. And she has a great technique. So I watched her matches and I feel like I know her game pretty well."

Muchova won the first encounter in Prague in three sets. She fashioned the chance for a rematch with a dazzling display of tenacity and ruthlessness in Thursday's semi-final.


Visibly fading as the second seed stepped up to serve for the match at 5-3, the 26-year-old profited from Sabalenka's backhand going Sunday afternoon ingenue at the country club: one into the net, the second long and the third wide.

With Sabalenka leading 5-4, Muchova still had to hold her nerve to serve her way back to parity. Fittingly, a backhand error from the unravelling Belarusian yielded the point to bring her back to 5-5.

Swiatek's team will have noted Muchova's sang froid especially on the forehand down the line to secure the break for 6-5 and the drop shot that offered her three match points.

"Who knows what can happen," said Muchova of her appearance in the final. "I think everything has its own time. In the past, it was not easy.

"That's actually what makes me to appreciate this result even more now, because I know what I have been through in the past."

A zen adversary up against the odds. Saturday's will be a final played on a plethora of plains.

Originally published on RFI

More South Korea News

Access More

Sign up for South Korea News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!