Top seed Iga Swiatek retained her French Open title on Saturday following a 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 triumph over the unseeded Czech Karolina Muchova.
Swiatek – kitted out in all white – needed two hours and 46 minutes to dispatch the world number 43.
That it took so long was a testament to Muchova’s fortitude.
Swiatek – as been her wont throughout the 2023 French Open – started like a hare and was 3-0 up within a quarter of an hour.
The 26-year-old Czech, playing in her first final at a Grand Slam tournament, eventually carved out a foothold and even had a point to cut the deficit to 3-2.
But she failed to profit from the chance and Swiatek held for 4-1.
And though Muchova eventually cut the lead, Swiatek surged on to take the set 6-2 after 39 minutes.
It was a similar scenario in the second set. Swiatek romped into a 3-0 advantage and the packed Philippe Chatrier court sensed a carnage.
But then Muchova started her comeback.
Her first backhand winner of the match brought up game point and a stylish backhand volley notched up her first game of the set.
She clenched her fist to accompany the crowd’s roar after she slapped a forehand winner down the line to claim the defending champion’s serve for the first time.
Muchova began to push the 22-year-old Pole around, even bully the queen of the courts. And she held serve to level at 3-3 after 79 minutes.
Swiatek unleashed her first backhand winner to take her to 4-3. But Muchova came back with purchase and served for the second set at 5-4.
She could not exploit that opening. But Swiatek was in equally munificent mood and she offered up her service again to give Mucvhova a second opportunity to force a decider.
This time she obliged.
And with the momentum, Muchova broke Swiatek’s service at the start of the decider and moved into a 2-0 lead before Swiatek recalled French Open etiquette and reeled off three games on the trot.
With Muchova playing her foxy game of slice and topspin drives, she broke Swiatek to lead 4-3.
But the befuddled world number one opted to fight that guile with fire and bashed her way back to parity of 4-4.
Swiatek held for 5-4 before Muchova faltered.
“It’s been amazing,” Said Muchova during the trophy presentation. Turning to her team of coaches in her box, she added:
“We were so close and so far but that happens when you go up against one of the best in Iga.”
It was Swiatek’s fourth trophy at a Grand Slam tournament venue and the third at the French Open to go with crowns from 2020 and 2022. The feat puts her on the same pedestal as Serena Williams, Monica Seles and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.
“I wouldn’t be here without my team,”
“Thank you guys. I know we won this tournament but it isn’t easy. Thank you to my family as well.”Said Swiatek after receiving the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen from the seven time winner Chris Evert.
And turning to Muchova, who beat her in their first meeting at the Prague Open in 2019, she said:
“Since we first played I know we were going to play tough matches. I was really struck with your variety on court, I know we are going to have many more finals.”
Swiatek and Muchova will take home cheques for 2.3 million and 1.15 million euros respectively.
Swiatek, who becomes only the sixth woman to retain her crown in Paris since the French Open allowed professionals to compete in 1968, will remain at number one in the rankings while Muchova will rise into the top 20 for the first time May 2021.