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Throughout this match, Pavlyuchenkova has looked more comfortable returning than serving and she quickly makes 0-15. But Muchova finds consecutive cross-court forehands, the second from a lovely angle and kicking with top, that breaks the sideline for a winner. From there, she closes out, consolidation sealed when Pavlyuchenkova does all the hard work then runs in for a putaway … and dumps it. Muchova leads 7-5 2-0.
Pavlyuchenlova, of course, reached the final in 2021 – the opportunity of a lifetime really – which she lost to the unheralded Barbora Krejcikova. Women’s tennis being women’s tennis, which is to say the least predictable sport in the world, she’ll hope to force her way back there, but it’s beginning to look like order is being restored with Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek looking a cut above the rest. And, as I type that, a lob drops long and Muchova breaks in the first game of set two; she leads 7-5 1-0.
This time, Muchova serves out authoritatively and to 15; she leads Pavlyuchenkova 7-5.
A succession of unforced errors from Pavlyuchankova hands Muchova 15-40 and dear oh dear, “we won the war but was was it all for” as Alexander Hamilton once rapped. A double fault, and Muchova will shortly serve for the set a second time at 6-5.
We join the action at a crucial time, Pavlyuchenkova having broken back for 5-5 with Muchova serving for the set.
Good morning and welcome to Roland-Garros 2023 – day 9!
After a week and a bit of premier jousting, the real gear gets under way this morning with the start of our quarter-finals, and naturellement there’s
plenty to go at plenty at which to go.
We begin with an unseeded battle, Karolina Muchová taking on Anastasia Pavlyuchenko. The former has done nicely out of a fine first-round dismissal of Maria Sakkari, snaffling the number eight seed’s pleasant path through the draw. As the better athlete with the bigger weapons, she’s the favourite to progress, but her opponent has dismissed the more taxing roster, so is also in excellent nick.
Following that we’ve a belter of a match. Elina Svitolina is one of the feel-good stories of the fortnight, having recently returned from injury and maternity to rediscover her best form. But if she’s to progress any further she’ll probably need to play better than she ever has before, because Aryna Sabalenka is no longer the talent who conjures new and exciting ways to lose but a grand slam champion hungry for more and in her absolute prime. She may, of course, be affected by the political furore around her – tired of being asked questions about Belarus’ support of Russia, she’s stopped attending press conferences to protect herself – or it may fire her to greater heights. We shall see.
And finally, we’ll bring you Novak Djokovic’s tussle with Karen Khachanov. On the face of things, it looks a gimme for the goat – I can’t decide whether I just like the alliteration or if I genuinely believe him to be the best ever – but he can sometimes things difficult for himself. Khachanov, meanwhile, has grown into a far more confident player over the last year or so, and is aiming for a third straight major semi. He believes he can do it, and that makes him dangerous.
Donc, on y va!