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Iga Swiatek defeats Karolina Muchova to win third French Open title

PARIS – Roland Garros is Iga Swiatek’s “favourite place on tour” and it is not too difficult to guess why.

On Saturday, the world No. 1 fought off a comeback from unseeded Czech Karolina Muchova to win 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 and clinch her third French Open title in the last four years.

The Pole, who had not dropped a set in the tournament before the final, breezed through the first set and was 3-0 up in the second before Muchova came back and forced a decider.

She had to do it the hard way, but the 22-year-old showed her quality and recovered in time to bag her fourth Grand Slam title after also lifting the US Open trophy last season.

“Thank you guys! First of all congrats to Karolina, since we first played I know we were going to play tough matches,” Swiatek said on the Philippe Chatrier court as she received the Suzanne Lenglen Cup.

“I was really struck with your variety on court, and I know we are going to have many more finals. Congrats to your team as well. I wouldn’t be here without my team also, so thank you guys. I know we won this tournament but it isn’t easy.

“Thank you to my family as well, so many people have come from Poland I really feel the love. I know I have said this every year, it isn’t really about the performance because I really love being here – it’s my favourite place on tour.”

Swiatek’s victory meant she became the first woman since Justine Henin in 2007 to win back-to-back French Opens.

She is also the third female player in the Open Era to win each of their first four Grand Slam finals, after Monica Seles, who represented Yugoslavia and the United States, and Naomi Osaka of Japan.

Her latest coronation caps another dominant two weeks on the Paris clay, where her record stands at 28 wins and two losses in five visits.

The 26-year-old Muchova, ranked 43rd in the world, was the fourth-lowest ranked woman to reach the French Open final, which was also her first championship match at a Grand Slam.

The Czech had won all five matches in her career against players in the top three before she faced Swiatek – four of them at Grand Slams – having stunned world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka in the semi-finals.

Muchova had outfoxed her rivals with her cunning variety throughout the tournament, but Swiatek had clearly done her homework since her opponent won their only other meeting in Prague in 2019 when she was ranked 95th.

A loose service game allowed Swiatek to pull 3-0 in front in the second set, but Muchova refused to roll over and levelled at three games each.

Swiatek then slowed Muchova’s momentum as the pair traded holds before the reigning champion showed her first real sign of nerves, double-faulting to leave her rival serving at 5-4 to force a decider.

Muchova sensed the tide was turning in her favour as Swiatek’s title defence began to creak.

However, she broke for 4-3 only for the Pole to hit back immediately and then secure a nervy hold, resisting another break point, to move within a game of victory.

Swiatek swiftly raced 30-0 ahead and earned two championship points when Muchova dragged a forehand wide, the Czech succumbing in the most brutal of ways with a double fault to end a thrilling contest.

“I’ll try to keep it short as it is emotional. This is incredible, thank you everyone,” Muchova said in her speech.

“This was so close but so far but this is what happens when you play the best.

“Iga I want to congratulate you once again and your team. I want to thank everyone behind the curtains as well. I wouldn’t be standing here if you didn’t push me in each match. Last one to my team, this is the hardest one. When I look at those people I feel like I am the winner so thank you.” REUTERS, AFP