September 26, 2023

Open Court


Flashback: Karolina Muchova’s 2018 Wimbledon debut

While wandering around the courts at Wimbledon qualifying in 2018, during the first round – a revelation.

An unknown player unknown was serve-volleying, chip-charging, and slicing her way to victory in her career Wimbledon debut.

These days, the way tennis is played on grass – especially by the women – it’s the kind of moment that makes you stop and take note.

And watch, appreciatively.

Karolina Muchova was 21 then – far from a precocious can’t-miss prodigy, she was ranked No. 223 in the world and this was her first career attempt at the Wimbledon qualifying.

She won in straight sets, over Ivana Jorovic.

Here’s what that looked like.

In the second round, she came up against a former Wimbledon finalist down on her luck in Genie Bouchard.

And, had the Czech had just a little more experience and belief at the time, she might well have won rather than suffer a three-set loss. With Mariana Duque Marino in the final round, the entire trajectory of her career might have been altered.

Certainly she had Bouchard in fits, looking over to her camp in frustration and throwing her racquet (not to mention doing her best to avoid a mandatory TV interview afterwards, with the interviewer standing right there on the court).

Fast Forward a year – a quarterfinalist

A year later, having moved her ranking inside the top 70, Muchova was straight into the main draw at Wimbledon and reached the quarterfinals after beating Anett Kontaveit and Karolina Pliskova (13-11 in the third set) before losing to Elina Svitolina.

In 2021, after the tournament was cancelled in 2020, she made the quarterfinals again as she defeated Giorgi, Pavlyuchenkova and Badosa before losing to Angelique Kerber.

Last year, she had the truly unfortunate luck of running into Simona Halep in the first round, and went out prematurely.

After that 2019 quarterfinal at Wimbledon, we spoke to Muchova at her first tournament back – a small event in the Bronx, just before the US Open.

She talks a little bit about why it took awhile to break through.

Not on camera, but we also spoke about the fact that despite her rising status, she still didn’t have any kind of a clothing deal – although then, as now, she’s was wearing adidas. Hopefully they’re making good on her now.

Muchova defeated a young qualifier named … Elena Rybakina in the first round at Flushing Meadows. Then she got past Hsieh Su-Wei (then at about her best singles ranking of No. 28) in a third-set tiebreak before bowing out to Serena Williams in the third round.

Good things take time

It felt as though it would come more quickly for Muchova, even if players who have the entire tool kit sometimes take a little longer, because when you have more options, it takes more experience to learn which ones to choose at which moments. But injuries hit and that top-level success has taken its sweet time.

But she had an unusual path. She hardly played at all at a junior – six tournaments over a 2 1/2-year span from ages 14-16, all in the Czech Republic. Certainly not on grass. Even at 17, turning 18, she had only played less than half a dozen lower-level pro events.

It was only 18 that she could even be considered a full-time pro. So it took time.

Now 26, she’s at a career high No. 16 in the rankings, after an impressive run to the Roland Garros final.

She could win that one day – those glorious skills translate equally to clay.

Less than a month ago in Paris, Muchova made the Roland Garros final

She could also win Wimbledon one day.

This might well not be that year, as the Roland Garros effort led to a much-needed break and she didn’t play any grass-court tennis leading up to Wimbledon this year.

It also won’t help that it was Thursday afternoon before she was finally able to get on court for her first-round match against Jule Niemeier. And she struggled.

But she’s always been a player on Open Court’s radar – ever since that day we casually strolled by a court in Roehampton and witnessed a revelation.

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