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French Open 2023 Semi-Final: Karolina Muchova V Aryna Sabalenka – Live

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Muchova 1-2 Sabalenka* Muchova gets to 30-all and in the circumstances this is a chance. Muchova, as we thought she might, slows down the pace of things, forcing Sabalenka to generate her own power – if she wants to. Which she doesn’t – instead she comes in slices a gorgeous drop, then on game-point monsters consecutive forehands, illustrating the conundrum of facing her perfectly: how do you beat someone who can hit it harder than you, who also has a better touch than you?

Muchova* 1-1 Sabalenka A solid start from Muchova,b ut then at 40-15 Sabalenka runs in and from mid-court slices a lovely backhand winner cross-court to the forehand corner. She’s playing with almost indecent confidence, but when she spanks a forehand from the back it drops fractionally long and Muchova is on the board. Meantime, Chrissy notes that Saba is kinder to herself now, allowing points she doesn’t win to pass without chastising her behaviour. On which point, to learn how to practise self-compassion – and other helpful behaviours – check out the work of Dr Shefali Tsabary.

Muchova 0-1 Sabalenka* (*denotes server) I love the simplicity of Sabalenka’s serve – there’s so little movement, it’s just toss, set, bend, whack. She starts nicely too, a big topspin forehand winner giving her 40-15 and the game sealed with an ace.

Aryna Sabalenka holds in the first game of the semi-final. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/ReutersAnd … play.

Absolute sake dept: Chatrier, though buzzing, is a long way off full. What is wrong with people?

Sabalenka goes to No1 in the world if she wins the competition or if Swiatek loses today. She’s yet to lose a set in the competition, and her last two wins, over Sloane Stephens and Elina Svitolina, were extremely impressive.

As I alluded to earlier, Muchova recently had seven months off with an abdominal injury, so being out there now must be gravy – Hawksmoor’s bone marrow gravy, no less.

Muchova wins the toss and, as per the present vogue, opts to receive. The idea is, I imagine, to put an opponent under pressure while settling oneself.

The wind’s kicking up a little which might help Muchova – she’ll be looking for points of difference – but on the other hand it might help Sabalenka, who can hit either with it or through it.

Here come our players!

What I will say is that there’s more chance Muchova beats Sabalenka than Haddad Maia beats Swiatek, partly because Sabalenka is still Sabalenka – her new-found confidence isn’t yet fully entrenched – but also because Muchova has more to offer that might cause trouble. Haddad Maia has nice hands and serious power, I just don’t think she’s enough of either to see off Swiatek.

Watching a further interview with Muchova, she won’t share her tactics but does seem to fancy herself. My guess is she tries to keep Sabalenka moving so that she can’t plant her feet and whack, which’ll mean drops, lobs, balls to the corners and variations of pace, spin and angle.

Wow. Wow wow wow wow.

We see some VT of Muchova, who says reaching the final in Rome a couple of weeks ago – she lost to Badosa – and though she’s the kind of person who wants everything now, she’s happy to have made the semi here eventually but of course still wants more.

I’m not sure Casper Ruud will win the men’s competition, but he absolutely strolls the best tan-line contest.

Photograph: EurosportPreambleSalut! And welcome to Roland-Garros 2023 – day 12!

I like these calm little moments before the storm. It reminds me of Beethoven. Can you hear it? It’s like, when you put your head to the grass. You can hear it growing. You can hear the insects, bzzzz … Do you like Beethoven?

So said Norman Stansfield in Léon and, though he wasn’t talking about our women’s semi-final matches – probably – he might’ve been. Because on the face of things, there’s no tension here as we know exactly what’s going to happen: Aryna Sabaklenka blazes through Karolína Muchová and Iga Swiatek devastates Beatriz Haddad Maia – the kind of light work best soundtracked by Mozart – then the two winners convene on Saturday for an absolute Brahms of a final.

But sport – and women’s tennis in particular – tend not to work that way. After a miserable time with injury, Muchová will feel that her time is now, and knows that not long ago, Sabalenka was a fragile thwacker liable to falter under pressure. If she plays to her maximum, she’ll fancy her chances of reminding her reborn opponent exactly who she used used to be.

Haddad Maia is a not dissimilar tigela de moqueca, a powerful hitter with hands and belief at her physical peak. It’s difficult to discomfit Swiatek, especially on clay, but the Brazilian is here because she’s hit purple patches in each of her last two matches, and she can find that level today, she’s a problem.

Most likely, of course, the favourites do enough – though neither has been seriously tested in reaching this stage. Swiatek, the defending champion, the reigning US Open champion and the world No 1, is a generational talent with disquieting equanimity and no weaknesses. Real talk, she seems impregnable on clay … except Sabalenka is in majestically murderous form, assaulting the ball like it just called her mum a rude word and fortified, since winning the Australian Open, with all the confidence that eluded her in the years prior to that.

Or, put another way, this going to be good … and what comes next might be even better. On y va!

Play: 3pm local, 2pm BST

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