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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, May 25, 2022

 
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Karolina Muchova upset fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 7-6, 7-6, to leave the bottom half of the Roland Garros draw devoid of a Top 10 seed.

Photo credit: Getty

Contesting the fourth tournament of her comeback, Karolina Muchova didn’t exactly have high hopes for her Roland Garros return.

Elevating her play at critical stages, Muchova soared to a 7-6(5), 7-6(4) upset of fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari to land in the third round for the second time in Paris.

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Flashing a forehand winner down the line, Muchova scored the second Top 10 clay-court win of her career blowing the bottom half of the draw wide open after two rounds.




World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, the 2020 champion, rides a 29-match winning streak into her second-round clash vs. American Alison Riske.

The top-seeded Swiatek is the dominant player in the top half of the draw. The bottom half is now devoid of a Top 10 seed.

A year ago, Sakkari held a match point against eventual-champion Barbora Krejcikova before bowing in the Roland Garros semifinals.

Today, Indian Wells finalist Sakkari joins the second-seeded Krejcikova, fifth-seeded Anett Kontaveit, sixth-seeded Madrid champion Ons Jabeur and 10th-seeded Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 champion, in bowing out of the bottom half in the first four days of the tournament.

Afterward, Sakkari credited Muchova for playing bolder on big points.

"She played an amazing match," Sakkari said of Muchova. "She always plays extremely well in Grand Slams and today she was the better player, so I have to give it to her.

"I tried a forehand on the last point. It didn't go my way. It's disappointing for sure because it still, it still is my favorite tournament and I'm sad.

"But at the same time there were a lot of positives today because I found myself again in the court. I'm feeling good. I'm fighting."

An abdominal issue knocked Muchova out of the 2021 season after the US Open and limited her to just four tournament this year since her comeback in Miami in March.

Still, the 2021 Australian Open semifinalist owns the all-court skills that make her a major threat to the elite. Muchova raised her record to 4-2 against Top 5 players, including wins over world No. 2 Naomi Osaka at the 2021 Madrid, a memorable upset of world No. 1 Ash Barty at the 2021 Australian Open and a 2019 conquest of third-ranked compatriot Karolina Pliskova at the 2019 Wimbledon.




Although clay is not her best surface, Muchova translated her all-court acumen to the dirt taking the first strike when she could.

Sakkari battled back from 2-5 down in the first set saving seven set points along the way before Muchova converted her eighth set point to snatch a one-set lead with a shout.

Muchova hit 34 winners, including winning 16 of 24 trips to net, in a two hour, 28-minute victory.

The 81st-ranked Czech cracked successive forehand winners to seal the biggest win of her comeback and set up an intriguing third-round showdown vs. 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova.

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The 20-year-old Anisimova toppled Osaka for the second straight Slam in the first round and backed that win up winning seven of the last eight games in a 6-4, 6-1 sweep of Croatian qualifier Donna Vekic.

The 27th-seeded Anisimova will face Muchova for the first time.

 

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