ITW Muchova: Roland-Garros the best experience for me

The 2023 Paris finalist talks about her memories and new ambitions ahead of US Open.

Karolina Muchova / Finale Roland-Garros 2023©André Ferreira / FFT
 - Simon Cambers

'I never kind of believed in myself on clay'

When Karolina Muchova closes her eyes and thinks of Roland-Garros, the memories come flooding back.

“It's still the best experience on the court for me,” Muchova says. “When I look back, it's unbelievable. I always see (in her mind) the Court Philippe-Chatrier. I think the court is beautiful when it's packed and I think I played some great tennis and I enjoyed it. So that makes it even better, I would say. Amazing two weeks.”

It's less than three months since Muchova reached her first Grand Slam final at Roland-Garros, beating Aryna Sabalenka on the way to the final and only narrowly missing out on a first slam title, edged out by the world No 1, Iga Swiatek in the final.

At 27, the Czech is in the form of her life and her performances in Paris added to her belief that she has what it takes to go one step further, when the US Open begins in New York on Monday.

“I always felt like I can go deep in slams,” she told in an interview on the eve of the US Open. “I would say in Paris that was probably the least (likely slam) that I would think I can go far in.

“I don't think I'm too bad on clay. I like the surface, I just never kind of believed in myself on that surface. It is the most physical and tough. I prefer it fast, so it was the least expected to play great there, but I'm super-glad. And I think, if I could do it on that surface I can play well anywhere.

“I played so many matches and great and tough matches and I came out as a winner out of them. So that always builds a little extra confidence. It also builds a little pressure but everything goes with it, hand in hand. Even when you do good, there is always something.”

'I think people recognise me more'

For a nation that has provided so many women’s champions in recent years, including Martina Navratilova, Jana Novotna, Petra Kvitova, Barbora Krejcikova and recently Marketa Vondrousova, having another slam finalist was perhaps not that surprising for people back home.

But when she returned to the Czech Republic, she realised the impact of her achievement. Suddenly, she was in demand from the media, while more people recognised her.  Now she is famous.

“When I came back, I had many interviews and photoshoots," she said. "It's business. When I didn't play great. I didn't have this. I was a little bit more busy I would say, with interviews and photoshoots and, and I think people recognise me more, which is nice but nothing that would get to my head, or that I would go to the streets and the paparazzi are there. Not like that, but in a nice way.”

Muchova may not have to wear a disguise when she’s heading out in public but she does have to be aware of what’s changed on the court. From being the hunter, she’s now the hunted, a potential scalp for a hungry young gun.

“It is different for sure because before I was the one playing and had nothing to lose, kind of,” she said. “And it's a different position. But it's nice. I like changes in life anyway. You have to take it as a challenge and an opportunity. It's a different one, and I like that.”

Karolina Muchova & Coco Gauff / Finale Cincinnati 2023©Ray Giubilo / FFT

'I hope it's going to be great fun in New York'

Muchova suffered a disappointing loss at Wimbledon, beaten in the first round by Jule Niemeier, when she was hampered by a fall in the deciding set. But she bounced back quickly, playing well in Montreal before going all the way to the final, only to be beaten by American Coco Gauff, who revelled in the hot conditions and in front of her home crowd.

“In Cincinnati there were great matches, long matches,” she said. “This is a different tournament, but I was confident there, I believed there. Here we start from zero but obviously it's nice to start a tournament with some wins.”

Now inside the world’s top 10, Muchova begins her title bid against the Australian, Storm Hunter, a left-hander she has never played before.

“I'm expecting a tough match,” she said. “She's a lefty. She has nothing to lose. I really want to do good, but I'm not putting too big expectations on me. We are starting from zero here and you never know. So I'll just try and prepare my best, play my best and bring the good tennis. I hope it's going to be great fun here.”