Tennis-Swiatek reigns supreme at French Open by quelling Muchova



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By Shrivathsa Sridhar

PARIS, June 10 (Reuters) -Poland's Iga Swiatek continued her dominance on Parisian clay with a third French Open crown in the last four years, defeating unseeded Czech Karolina Muchova 6-2 5-7 6-4 in a thrilling final to capture her fourth Grand Slam title on Saturday.

Swiatek has now lost only two out of 26 Grand Slam matches since moving to world number one in April last year and the 22-year-old became the youngest woman to bag consecutive trophies at Roland Garros since Monica Seles, who won from 1990-92.

The U.S. Open champion also joined Seles and Naomi Osaka as the only women in the Open Era to emerge victorious in each of their first four major finals, but she was made to work for it by a determined Muchova.

"First of all congratulations to Karolina," said Swiatek, who became the first woman to successfully defend the Roland Garros women's singles title since Justine Henin in 2007.

"I knew it would be a tough match. I hope you're going to have many more finals. Congratulations to your team. I know how much teams are important I wouldn't be here without my team.

"To my team, sorry for being such a pain in the... I'll try to do better. I know we won this tournament, but it's not easy. Being on tour for two weeks, it's tough. Thank you to my family as well; so many came from Poland and I feel the love.

"It's not just about the performance, I really love being here it's my favourite place on the tour."


FAST START

Swiatek worked the angles superbly from the baseline and blazed ahead 3-0 on a warm and windy afternoon on Court Philippe Chatrier before world number 43 Muchova settled the nerves, got on the board and threatened to break back.

Muchova had chances in the fifth game of the first set but the 26-year-old struggled to finish them off and found herself in more trouble in the next, before bailing herself out with a tight hold thanks to a delicate drop shot and backhand winner.

Muchova, who prevailed the only time the pair faced off in Prague in 2019, launched herself into Swiatek's second serve but the Czech sprayed far too many errors and allowed her opponent to go up a set in 44 minutes with another break.

Swiatek continued to benefit from Muchova's mistakes from the baseline and at the net to build a commanding 3-0 lead in the second set but the Czech fired a rocket of a forehand to break back and then level at 3-3.

Muchova began to grow in confidence and attacked with more accuracy to heap pressure on Swiatek, who hit a double fault to gift her opponent the opportunity to even things up in the next game but there was yet another twist in the tale.

After breaking back to make it 5-5, Swiatek surrendered her serve again but saved two set points before Muchova pulled off a magical volley at full stretch to set up another and finally forced a decider.

Muchova was brimming with self-belief, having edged Aryna Sabalenka in a three-setter in the semi-finals, and went ahead in the final set, but Swiatek shrugged off the early break and wrestled back the momentum by winning three straight games.

The top seed dropped serve in the seventh game but broke back instantly and produced a tight hold to inch closer to the title, which she wrapped up when Muchova double faulted.


EMOTIONAL SCENES

That sparked emotional scenes on centre court as Swiatek shed tears of joy before joining her family in the crowd for a celebration.

In a moment that set social media alight later, she dropped the lid of the cup as she waved the trophy in the air.

For Muchova, it was a first defeat against a player ranked in the top three in six meetings.

"I'll keep it short because it's bit emotional," she said, with tears flowing and the crowd chanting her name. "It was so close yet so far but I played one of the best, Iga. I want to congratulate you out loud again and your team.

"To my box. When I look at those people, I feel I'm the winner. Thank you. I hope this is only the beginning. We've come a long way."

Swiatek's third win in Paris put her level with modern day three-time champions Serena Williams, Monica Seles and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

Tournament director Amelie Mauresmo said of the Pole: "She's getting this special relationship with Roland Garros over the years. She's still young ... and we can imagine she will lift the trophy many more times here."

Fourth seeds Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek later won the men's doubles title as the Croatian-American pair defeated Belgians Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen 6-3 6-1.



Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar and Karolos Grohmann in Paris; Editing by Ken Ferris

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