Karolina Muchova shines at Roland Garros after injury struggle

Karolina Muchova French Open
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Karolina Muchova is preparing to play the third-round match at her first Slam back since suffering an ab injury that took her out for seven months. After taking out fourth seed Maria Sakkari in straight sets, the Czech will now be taking on the favorite pick for a dark horse in this draw, Amanda Anisimova, in the Friday Court Suzanne-Lenglen opener.

The Injury

The injury struggles began for Muchova all the way at the beginning of 2021 during her amazing run to the Australian Open semifinals, where she suffered a partial abdominal muscle tear. The Czech came back in Stuttgart but only stopped feeling the limitations of the injury right before Roland Garros, which allowed her to put together a quarterfinal run at Wimbledon.

“In Australia, it was new. I knew about the pain but it was easier to fight then than it is now. The serve is a big part of my game and when the pain flares up it is very difficult to play with and keep my mind off it,” Muchova said in September.

The abdominal pain came back for Muchova in the lead-up to the US Open, though in a different place than where the tear was. The injury forced the 25-year-old out of Cincinnati in the third round and limited her in a first-round loss at the US Open as she got another tear in New York, shutting down her season.

Muchova was forced to skip her home tournament in Ostrava as well as the Czech Extraliga in December and would not be able to defend her semifinal at the Australian Open either, sending her plummeting down the rankings. The Czech was outside the Top 70 by the time she came back in March.

The Comeback

Muchova was nominated for a Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier against Great Britain but did not play a match until Miami. The Czech looked very good in her comeback tournament, especially against Leylah Fernandez, but was “fully exhausted and lacked the strength for another match” after tough difficult sets, so she pulled out of her third-round match with Naomi Osaka.

Muchova went 1-2 in Madrid and Rome though played Belinda Bencic very close in Spain, so the expectations coming into Paris.

Karolina in Paris

The pressure was on for the Czech, defending 130 points from a third-round run last year. With a first-round exit, Muchova would have been at risk at falling out of the Top 100. Her opener was a routine win over struggling wild card Carole Monnet in straight sets, but then the magic came.

Muchova came up against the fourth seed and a top eight favorite for the title, Maria Sakkari. The Greek impressed in a Rome quarterfinals run and slid easily past Clara Burel in the first round.

The unseeded outsider jumped away with a double break lead to 5-2 but it seemed like she would never close that first set out, Sakkari saving six set points before they headed into a tiebreak. The finish of the set was a tight affair but Muchova winning the next two points at 5-5 sealed it for her.

In the second set, a long game at 2-2 seemed to definitely shift the momentum for Muchova as she got the break and went 4-2 up after confirming it. Sakkari broke back though and forced the Czech to serve to stay in the set twice but the second set went to a tiebreak as well. That one was decided late as well with Muchova getting a mini-break at 4-4 and finishing the match out on her own serve.

The Olomouc native will be the underdog again, facing Amanda Anisimova in the third round. The American is 12-3 on clay this year with at least a quarterfinal at every clay event she played. The match will begin the action on Court Suzanne-Lenglen at 11am local time.

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