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Semis Showdown: Sabalenka, Muchova clash at French Open

Last updated on: June 06, 2023 20:58 IST
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Images from Day 10 of the 2023 French Open at Roland Garros in Paris on Tuesday.

Aryna Sabalenka

IMAGE: Aryna Sabalenka reached her first French Open semi-final. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

World number two Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus powered past Ukraine's Elina Svitolina 6-4 6-4 in a highly anticipated clash on Tuesday to reach the French Open semi-finals.

The match was an intriguing prospect with Svitolina, who last year became a mother, refusing to shake hands with players from Russia or Belarus following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine last year, which it calls a 'special military operation'.

Australian Open champion Sabalenka, who next faces Czech Karolina Muchova, caused a furore by snubbing the media after her last two matches, having been grilled about the war and her country's involvement as a staging ground for Russian troops.


But she was all business on Court Philippe Chatrier, cruising through her quarter-final in straight sets despite a flurry of 37 unforced errors compared to her opponent's 12.

"She's a tough opponent, she moves very well," Sabalenka said of her challenging start to the game. "What she did after giving birth is impressive I have respect for her.

"I'm happy with the win and the atmosphere," the Belarusian added. "We all know you are waiting for Novak (Djokovic who plays next) but I'll take it as if it's for me."

With several Ukrainian flags unfurled in the half-empty stands, the pair traded blows at the start with neither managing to carve out a break point in the first eight games.

But favourite Sabalenka, aiming for the world number one spot with a title win in Paris, grabbed the key break and then served out the first set a little later, with her opponent looping a backhand wide.

Svitolina broke for 2-0 in the second set as Sabalenka hit her 23rd unforced error but the Ukrainian was still on the back foot in most points and allowed her opponent to pull the break back when she netted a backhand.

Sabalenka continued her demolition job, breaking again for 3-2 with a forehand winner.

Svitolina stayed afloat thanks to her opponent's unforced errors, but the outcome was always in the Belarusian's hands.

Sabalenka ended it on the second match point with yet another forehand winner and boos were heard from the stands as Svitolina walked straight to her bench without shaking hands, while Sabalenka waited at the net.

IMAGE: Karolina Muchova plays a forehand. Photograph: Lisi Niesner/Reuters

Muchova pummels Pavlyuchenkova

Karolina Muchova stopped resurgent former French Open runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in her tracks with a 7-5 6-2 victory on Tuesday to march into the Roland Garros semi-finals for the first time in her career.

Muchova has largely flown under the radar in Paris this year after she stunned eighth seed Maria Sakkari in the opening round and the unseeded 26-year-old began brightly in front of a sparse Court Philippe Chatrier crowd with an early break.

But Pavlyuchenkova, who has fallen to 333 in the world after a knee injury kept her out of action for seven months last year, stayed within touching distance with a tight hold and sprung to life in the next game to draw level at 3-3.

After the pair exchanged breaks again, Muchova pinned her 31-year-old Russian opponent back with some deep groundstrokes to bag the opening set without fuss and made early inroads in the next as Pavlyuchenkova faded under the midday sun.

IMAGE: Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in action. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Muchova appeared more comfortable in the second set and built a commanding 5-1 lead before Pavlyuchenkova showed some signs of resistance.

But there was no comeback on the cards as Muchova closed out the match on serve and celebrated the win in a muted manner when Pavlyuchenkova fired a shot wide.

"I'm really happy with the semi-finals, so it's not like I'm just like, whatever. It's a great result for me, so I appreciate it a lot," said Muchova, who also reached the Australian Open last four in 2021.

"Of course, I'm still in the tournament so I'm trying to focus on another match and the tournament starts here.

"So that's probably why I look calm. But I'm super pleased with the way this tournament is going."

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