In an all-unseeded Roland Garros quarterfinal between former Top 20 players returning from injury, Karolina Muchova overcame Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-2 in 1 hour and 38 minutes. On Thursday, Muchova will meet No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, who ended Elina Svitolina's run. 

The result puts the Czech into her second Grand Slam semifinal following the 2021 Australian Open, as well as her first tour-level semifinal since that tournament. An abdominal issue sidelined her for six months following the 2021 US Open, and at Roland Garros last year she sustained an ankle injury in the third round against Amanda Anisimova that saw her taken off court in a wheelchair.

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Muchova, whose career-high ranking is No.19, had fallen to No.235 last August. But her comeback has gathered pace this year. She had already reached two WTA 1000 quarterfinals in Dubai and Indian Wells, as well as the last 16 in Rome, to rise back to her current No.43. Her overall 2023 record now stands at 24-7 (22-7 in WTA main draws).

The 26-year-old also leveled her head-to-head against Pavlyuchenkova at two wins apiece. Pavlyuchenkova had won their only previous clay-court meeting 7-6(4), 7-6(2) in the 2021 Madrid quarterfinals. Muchova, who is contesting just the 17th Grand Slam main draw of her career, improves her record in major quarterfinals to 2-2, while 2021 finalist Pavlyuchenkova drops to 1-7.

Muchova has dropped just one set along the way to the semifinals.

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How the match was won: Both players exhibited some of their finest touch sprinkled with edgy mistakes in a tight opening set. A trio of unforced errors by Pavlyuchenkova in the first game enabled Muchova to grab an immediate break, and she managed to keep her nose in front for most of the set.

The momentum was temporarily with Pavlyuchenkova after she saved five break points to go down a double break, then promptly broke Muchova back to level at 3-3. But serving at 4-4, 30-0, the 31-year-old double-faulted, and Muchova wrested back control.

Despite Muchova being unable to serve the set out on her first attempt, she made no mistake at 6-5, firing down a service winner to convert her first set point.

Muchova rolled through the second set as Pavlyuchenkova, who had spent nine hours and 16 minutes on court over her previous four matches combined, faded. She finished with 21 winners, including some delightful flicked backhand angles and short off forehands, and won 14 of 16 net points. Pavlyuchenkova struck 16 winners, but as the second set progressed her unforced error count mounted to 29.

More to come...