Karolina Muchova knocked out a Top 10 player on Day 1 of Roland Garros, as the Czech defeated No.8 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece 7-6(5), 7-5 on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Former Top 20 player Muchova, currently ranked No.43, defeated Sakkari at the French Open for the second straight year, by a nearly identical scoreline. Muchova also upset Sakkari in the second round last year in two tiebreak sets, and she now leads their overall head-to-head 3-1.
"I had a great run in Rome, so that for sure boosts my confidence a little bit on clay," Muchova said afterwards. "I felt great in the practices as well.
"I got some matches under the belt, so that helps. I felt pretty confident. Obviously I knew I have a tough draw, and it's going to be a tough match, and it was. I'm just, again, glad that I finished it in two."
4 - Karolina Muchova is the first Czech female player to win 4+ consecutive Grand Slam matches against top-10 opponents since Jana Novotna (five, between Wimbledon and the US Open 1998). Specialism.#RolandGarros | @rolandgarros @WTA @WTA_insider pic.twitter.com/pNBrOeLBHf— OptaAce (@OptaAce) May 28, 2023
Sakkari, who made the Roland Garros semifinals two years ago, came into the match with a 15-1 win-loss record in Grand Slam first rounds when she is a seeded player. But the Greek was toppled this time around in 2 hours and 6 minutes, becoming the first Top 10 player to fall this fortnight.
Sakkari fended off two match points at 5-4 in the second set, but Muchova garnered two more chances at 6-5, and the Czech converted her fourth match point with an error-forcing forehand.
It is another Grand Slam upset Muchova can add to her growing collection. Muchova has now collected eight wins over Top 10 players in her career, with five of those coming at the Slams, including her Paris victory over Sakkari last year.
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Muchova has never passed the third round at Roland Garros, but the 26-year-old has gone deep at other Grand Slam tournaments in her career. Muchova reached the 2021 Australian Open semifinals and is a two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist.
Muchova will face a former Roland Garros semifinalist for her second straight match when she takes on Nadia Podoroska of Argentina in the second round. Podoroska, who reached the semifinals in Paris in 2020, cruised past French wildcard Jessika Ponchet 6-0, 6-2 earlier on Sunday.
Canada's Leylah Fernandez also took out a seed on Sunday when she beat No.21 Magda Linette of Poland 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 in 2 hours and 11 minutes. Fernandez is in the same section of the draw as Muchova, where they could possibly meet in the Round of 16.
Fernandez, who reached the French Open quarterfinals last year, defeated Linette for the second time in their three meetings. Both of Fernandez's wins over Linette have come in Paris, with the Canadian also triumphing in their first-round clash in 2020.
"Today was a very hard first round match," Fernandez told the press. "In the past we've played against each other, it's always been three sets, and it was no different today.
"I think the biggest key for today was being aggressive, being offensive on key moments and also being very positive, not letting small mistakes get to me or her playing well frustrate me. I was glad that I was able to maintain that throughout the match."
From 3-1 down, Fernandez reeled off five games in a row to clinch the one-set lead. However, this year's Australian Open semifinalist Linette stormed through the second set, wrapping it up with a backhand winner.
Each player fended off multiple break points in the third set before Fernandez broke through with a forehand winner to edge ahead 5-3. Fernandez double faulted on her first match point, but she forced a long error on her second chance to close out the win.
Fernandez will next take on Danish qualifier Clara Tauson in the second round, in a rematch of the 2019 Junior Australian Open final, which Tauson won. Tauson, who is trying to shake off an injury-plagued 2022, routined Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2, 6-0 on Sunday.