Editor’s note: This week, the WTA editorial team looks back at our top moments from the 2023 Hologic WTA Tour season. On Tuesday, we unveil our most memorable matches.
Not all tennis matches are created equal. Some live rent-free in your head. Maybe it's because of the scintillating level of play or the high-stakes tug of war. Or maybe the result, one that remained in the balance until the very last point, simply left an indelible mark.
These are the 2023 matches that left a lasting impression with us:
Iga Swiatek vs. Karolina Muchova, French Open final
The stakes were obvious: Iga Swiatek, who had not lost a set going into the final, was trying to defend her Roland Garros title to pocket a third championship in four years. Across the net was Karolina Muchova, who had just pulled off a great escape against Aryna Sabalenka in the semifinals, saving match point to prevent a No.1 vs. No.2 final with the top ranking on the line. Swiatek won nine of the first 11 games and looked well on her way to a processional march to another dominant fortnight in Paris.
Then, all of a sudden, Muchova marched back from 3-0 down to force a third set and put the result very much in the balance. The Czech certainly had her chances. She led by a break twice in the deciding set and, after Swiatek battled back to 4-4, held a break point for a chance to serve out the biggest upset of the year. Swiatek responded by winning six of the last seven points to seal the gritty win.
Asked for her thoughts on the match afterwards, Swiatek could only laugh: "Oh, my God, do you want to start that rollercoaster?" -- Courtney Nguyen
Karolina Muchova vs. Aryna Sabalenka, French Open semifinals
I’ll go you one earlier, Courtney. How about the semifinal that delivered Muchova to that scintillating final? Muchova came in unseeded, and Sabalenka, with her Australian Open crown, had won 12 straight major matches. Muchova won it 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 7-5 in an excruciatingly tight match that ran 3 hours, 13 minutes. In a tournament full of great matches -- remember Beatriz Haddad Maia’s wild fourth-round win over Sara Sorribes Tormo in nearly four hours? -- this was the one that made the biggest impression. -- Greg Garber
Coco Gauff vs. Aryna Sabalenka, US Open final
The US Open final has stuck with me more than any other match this season, not only because Coco Gauff successfully completed her progression of increasingly higher-level titles with her first Grand Slam, but because she had to work her way through a comeback and summon her best skills to do so. Aryna Sabalenka’s bevy of winners seemed unstoppable in the first set, but Gauff doubled down on her exceptional footspeed, refusing to back down in any points as she reached one set all.
By the final set, where Gauff built a commanding lead with excellent angles at the end of more lengthy rallies, it was clear that Gauff had become proficient in working her way to the biggest of titles from any position. It was a satisfying conclusion to Gauff’s breakthrough summer hard-court season, where she went 18-1. -- Jason Juzwiak
Venus Williams vs. Camila Giorgi, first round Birmingham
What's at stake for Venus Williams in 2023? Everything and nothing. At 43 years old, the seven-time major champion doesn't have a thing left to prove to anyone. Her legacy in the sport is assured. But every time she stepped on court this past year, she's fought as though she was contesting a Grand Slam final in her prime. In the first round of Birmingham, despite slipping on the grass early in the first set, Venus summoned up all her grit to defeat Camila Giorgi 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(6) in a 3-hour, 17-minute rollercoaster.
It was her first win over a Top 50 player in four years, and her second-longest victory since 2008 (when records started to be kept). And it was a reminder that -- even for a megastar such as Venus -- the highest stakes in sport come not with hyped-up spectacle but pure competition at any level. -- Alex Macpherson