New York | Muchova sweeps past Cirstea to make Last 4

Karolina Muchova swept past Sorana Cirstea, 6-0 6-3, into the semi-finals of the US Open for the first time on Tuesday night on Arthur Ashe Stadium, in what was a rematch of their 3rd-round meeting at the 2020 US Open, which the Czech World No 10 also won.

I have proven [to] myself that I got back into the elite of tennis. It was not easy to get back there, and every match is tough. I made it. I'm really, really happy that it happened. I think with my body it, kind of, needed some time, and then it was, like, continuous work and try to figure out stuff, how to keep myself healthy, and not be injured, after almost every match. Karolina Muchova

At the age of 33, Cirstea was the oldest women’s singles quarter-finalist at this year’s US Open, and the Romanian had not been to the Last 8 at a Grand Slam for 14 years.

Muchova arrived at last year’s US Open ranked No 235 in the world, and was only starting to make her way back after injuries, but she has grafted her way up the rankings and is now at No 10 with an appearance in the French Open final already under her belt.

Her momentum started to build in the spring US hard-court season, where she had deep runs at Indian Wells and Miami after making it through qualifying, before her head-turning run at Roland Garros, where she scored two Top 10 wins over Maria Sakkari and Aryna Sabalenka before losing to eventual champion Iga Swiatek over 3 long and tough sets.

The Czech rose from No 43 to 16 after Paris, and, after a run to the final at the WTA 1000 in Cincinnati just prior to the US Open, Muchova cracked the Top 10.

“I have proven [to] myself that I got back into the elite of tennis,” Muchova said earlier in the week. “It was not easy to get back there, and every match is tough. I made it. I’m really, really happy that it happened.”

On Tuesday night Muchova was very much in her stride, and she broke Cirstea in her first 2 service games, who was showing signs of early nerves under the lights.

“I felt very good, actually, from the start till the end,” she said afterwards.

The Czech has a well-rounded game, and a sharp tennis brain, while Cirstea’s primary tools are her side-to-side movement and fighting spirit.

Muchova is also a fighter.

“I think with my body it, kind of, needed some time,” she said, “and then it was, like, continuous work and try to figure out stuff, how to keep myself healthy, and not be injured, after almost every match.”


Sorana Cirstea (R) could not stop Karolina Muchova's run at the US Open in the quarter-finals

© Corey Sipkin/AFP via Getty Images

Cirstea had earned impressive wins over such formidable opponents as 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and 2021 Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic, but she could not find a way past the versatile Muchova, who produced pinpoint serves, crisp forehands, sliced and driven backhands, dart-like volleys, line-touching lobs, and feathery drop-shots from her impressive arsenal.

The Romanian failed to convert on 9 break points, and gifted Muchova a 4-0 lead, which the Czech extended this into a bagel set after 42 minutes.

“Forget about the score!” yelled Thomas Johansson, the 2022 Australian Open men’s singles champion and Cirstea’s coach, between sets. “You’re hitting well! Now we fight!”

Cirstea finally got on herself the board with a hold to start the second set, and broke Muchova for a 2-0 lead, but any thoughts of a come-back were quickly swept aside by the 27-year old Czech, who won 6 of the next 7 games to seal a comprehensive performance, and notch another big career milestone, turning a love-40 deficit into a match point after an 18-ball rally, and wrapping up play after one hour and 38 minutes.

“I believe that with my game I can be at the top,” Muchova added. “This was the last one that I was missing as a quarter-final, so I’m really glad that I made it. It feels good, but I don’t want to stop here.”

As just one example of Muchova’s remarkable skill set, Cirstea served in the second set at 3-5, 40-love, when Muchova smacked a forehand return, came to net, and clipped off a forehand volley winner.

“Nothing to lose,” said Muchova, who, 2 points later, again approached the net to bring things back to deuce.

Jolted at seeing her lead vanish, Cirstea overhit a forehand swing volley, and, on match point, Muchova lined an untouchable down-the-line forehand.

“I remember, last year, I was really struggling with injury,” she said. “I lost here first round, and I couldn’t continue, so yeah, just really glad to be competing.”

Commanding as the final score was, this match had moments of both drama and tension.

With Muchova serving at 3-0 in the first set, the two played a 26-point, 18-minute, 10-deuce game, and although Cirstea reached break point 9 times, she was unable to convert on any.

Fittingly, that game ended when Muchova countered a drop-shot from Cirstea with a sweet re-drop that extracted an error.

Cirstea made 27 forays to the net but was successful on only 11 of them, while Muchova made 13 of 17.


Both Karolina Muchova (L) and Sorana Cirstea were making history in the quarter-finals at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York

© Corey Sipkin/AFP via Getty Images

It seems likely that Muchova will attack the net far more on Thursday against 6th-seeded Coco Gauff in the semi-finals, and the two have only met once before, when the 19-year old American won in straight sets in last month’s Cincinnati final.

“She’s very athletic,” observed Muchova. “She never gives up. Runs for every ball. Doesn’t do many mistakes. So she has, kind of, all the strokes. So very, very good player from all the aspects.

“Obviously, [Coco] is an amazing player. She has the home crowd here. It’’s going to be very tough. I’m trying to enjoy this win, then I’ll try to put up a fight against Coco.”

An all-Czech final remains a possibility as Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova is in the opposite half of the draw and faces American Madison Keys in a Wednesday quarter-final.

“It’s big competition in Czech Republic,” Muchova said in her on-court interview after the win. “It’s tough. We support each other.”

The other semi-final slot to be determined when Aryna Sabalenka, the soon to be new World No 1 from Belarus, meets 20-year old Qinwen Zheng, the No 23 seed from China in the last quarter-final.




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