French Open: World No. 43 Karolina Muchová stuns Aryna Sabalenka, advances to first Grand Slam final

After more than three hours of thrilling, top-level tennis, the Czech Republic's Karolina Muchová emerged victorious over Aryna Sabalenka, the No. 2 player in the world. Muchová, unseeded at the French Open and ranked No. 43 in the world, defeated Sabalenka 7-6(5), 6(5)-7, 7-5 and made a stunning comeback in the third set. She will face either Iga Swiatek and Beatriz Haddad Maia in her first Grand Slam final.

Until Sabalenka, 25 and from Belarus, met the 26-year-old Muchová, she hadn't dropped a set at the French Open. But Sabalenka was genuinely challenged by Muchová, who had an answer for everything the aggressive Sabalenka threw at her. Sabalenka's pure power and ability to overwhelm make up for the unforced errors that come with hitting the ball really, really hard.

But Muchová, who at 5-foot-11 is the same height as Sabalenka, was on her game. She made Sabalenka pay for those mistakes, especially in the tiebreak.

The second set was just as close as the first. Muchová took a 2-0 lead, marking the first time either player had a multigame lead, but Sabalenka had a burst of productivity and caught up. Just as she took the lead, Muchová took it back. Both players were so good and so evenly matched that neither one could keep the momentum for long.

Up 5-4 in the second set, Muchová was just three points from total victory when Sabalenka took the momentum back again. She smashed her way to 5-5 and then 6-6, forcing a tiebreak that was (of course) hotly contested as well. Muchová made a valiant effort, interrupting Sabalenka's attempts to get a roll started. But Sabalenka, down one set and on the brink of elimination, was able to gut it out and put enough points together to even the score at one set each.

Karolina Muchova celebrates her victory over Aryna Sabalenka in the semifinals of the French Open. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Karolina Muchova celebrates her victory over Aryna Sabalenka in the semifinals of the French Open. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

After putting so much into the second set and having nothing to show for it, Muchová's level started to drop in the third set. Battling Sabalenka's fierce power for nearly three hours is draining, but that's one of the reasons she's the best in the world. Soon, it was Muchová staring down elimination with Sabalenka up 5-2 and on the brink of victory.

That's when Sabalenka started moving slowly, missing shots and double-faulting. At the same time, Muchová stepped up and finally found her rhythm. She fought her way back from match point to win her third game, and then she couldn't be stopped. Sabalenka completely collapsed while Muchová narrowed it to 5-4, tied it at 5-5 and took her first lead of the third set at 6-5. She easily won the final game, securing her improbable upset win over the No. 2 player in the world.

Just one year ago at the French Open, Muchová rolled her ankle in the third round and was forced to retire. She left the court in tears and walked away from Roland Garros with her foot in a boot. Now, after overcoming two difficult, injury-filled seasons, Muchová, isn't just making a comeback — she's breaking new ground.