July 30, 2021

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Muchova

Karolina Muchova didn’t bring her best tennis to her quarterfinal against an impervious Angelique Kerber Tuesday at Wimbledon.

And the 2018 champion certainly did.

But you don’t have to go back too far to realize how far she’s come in a short time.

Just three years ago, ranked No. 233 and considered either a late-bloomer or a “not gonna make it” player, 21-year-old Muchova made it into the qualifying at Roehampton.

She played Serbia’s Ivana Jorovic in the first round. And as I was randomly walking by her court, I stopped dead when I saw a player I had never heard of … gasp … serving and volleying on a grass court.

Especially on the women’s side, that’s enough to stop you in your tracks these days. So I had a pretty good look at the future.

She defeated Jorovic 6-3, 6-4 and then found herself up against the 2014 Wimbledon finalist Genie Bouchard.

Bouchard, whose ranking had fallen upon hard times, had to qualify that year.

The Canadian beat her, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 – as much on experience as anything else. Muchova was error-prone that day (as she was Tuesday against Kerber, and made the main draw.

Here’s what it looked like as they prepared to go on court at Roehampton.

Unknown Karolina Muchova and 2014 finalist Genie Bouchard get ready for their second-round qualifying match at Roehampton in 2018.

Not quite like stepping onto No. 1 Court Tuesday, right?

Second trip pays dividends for Muchova

Muchova was still outside the top 200 a couple of months later when she tried to qualify at the US Open – basically the same range she had been two years before when she first tried her luck there.

She did qualify – and defeated Garbiñe Muguruza on her way to the third round.

And it wasn’t until Feb. 2019 that she earned her first main-draw win on the WTA Tour, in Dubai.

But by the time Wimbledon rolled around again, Muchova was in the main draw. And she made the quarterfinals on her first attempt.

This year, she matched that effort in her second go-round.

Muchova, currently at No. 22 in the rankings, will actually lose ground after her effort this week. She was defending a quarterfinal and Kerber and Ons Jabeur are expected to bump her down a couple of spots.