Karolina Muchova pulled off a stunning upset to reach the final of the French Open, beating second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6(5) 6-7(5) 7-5.
Despite failing to convert her first set point in the opener, Muchova held her nerve in the subsequent tie-break to take a surprise lead in the match.
It was the first time Sabalenka had dropped a set in the tournament, and things went from bad to worse as Karolina Muchova broke at the start of the second for 2-0.
She was able to battle back, and the set again went to tie-break, which this time went in favour of the big-serving Belarusian.
Sabalenka stole a march to go 5-2 ahead in the third, but after failing to convert a match point, she lost five games in a row as Muchova served out the match to seal a historic victory.
After securing the win, Karolina Muchova said the key was keeping grounded.
She said: “I’ve heard people tell me [my game is incredible]. I don’t want to hear it or get it into my head too much and become cocky. I’m just trying to play my game; we work on it and I’m glad it worked so well.
“Look around. It’s easy [to stay composed and motivated] in this beautiful stadium with so many people watching. It goes nicely with everyone. I hear my name and people cheering for me when I go for my towel. It’s an incredible feeling.”
Muchova was excellent behind her serve early in the match, being happy to approach the net.
Sabalenka shrugged off a double-fault and wild smash in the seventh game of the opening set to hold and move in front at 4-3.
Karolina Muchova would not be shrugged aside and after going close to securing a break in the seventh game, she did get it two games later. Punishing groundstrokes were complemented by secure play at the net as the Czech moved in front.
After doing superbly to work the break, the unseeded Czech frittered it away – albeit the break back was down to some excellent baseline play from Sabalenka.
With nothing between the two, the opening set went to a breaker – and Muchova worked an early advantage.
Unlike in the 10th game, Karolina Muchova did not squander the chance, and she wrapped up the set with a blistering backhand down the line for a clean winner.
With Sabalenka reeling from the loss of her first set of the tournament, Muchova cashed in to secure a break at the start of the second.
The Belarus player hit back and broke a second time to seemingly take a stranglehold on the second set, but at 4-3 up her arm tightened and Mucholva got back on serve immediately.
After looking fragile at the start of the second set, both players served with authority as it went to another breaker.
Sabalenka coughed up the first mini-break when sending a forehand into the net, but the gift was handed back when Karolina Muchova threw a backhand into the net.
The No. 2 seed ramped up the decibel level, and it appeared to do the trick as she secured a mini-break and had set point, only to double-fault.
She had a second chance on the Muchova serve and a crunching backhand return set up the chance, which she took with a smash that her opponent could not get back into court.
As the third set developed, Karolina Muchova began to look fatigued. She saved four break points in her opening service game, but could not keep her rival at bay and Sabalenka worked a break of serve to lead 4-2.
The 25-year-old backed up the break with a solid hold against a tiring opponent, but to Muchova’s credit she saved a match point in the eighth game and forced Sabalenka to close it out on her own serve.
Despite looking across the net at a tiring opponent, Sabalenka threw in an awful game littered with wild groundstrokes as Karolina Muchova somehow got the contest back on serve at 4-5 – and a love hold got the match back on level terms.
Double-faults were an issue with Sabalanka earlier in her career, and they reared their head in the 11th game. She coughed up two in a row, followed it with a wild backhand and Muchova broke to lead 6-5.
After looking out on her feet a couple of games ago, Karolina Muchova was revived and a glorious drop shot set up three match points – and she converted at the first time of asking to book her place in a maiden Grand Slam final.
“I don’t really know what happened; the atmosphere, the people were pushing me all the matches,” Muchova said. “I tried to keep fighting and it worked. I’m so happy.”