Swiatek v Muchova: Where the match can be won

There will be several factors at play in the Roland-Garros 2023 women's singles showdown

Swiatek - Muchova
 - Simon Cambers

After two weeks of upsets and drama in the women's draw, Iga Swiatek takes on Karolina Muchova in the final at Roland-Garros on Saturday.

For world No.1 Swiatek, it’s a chance for a third Roland-Garros title and fourth Grand Slam in total, while for Muchova it’s a first Grand Slam final and a golden opportunity.

Swiatek has the experience, Muchova has the variety. Here’s a tactical breakdown of how the match might unfold.

First set will be crucial

Swiatek is through to the final without dropping a set and the bad news for Muchova is that the Pole has won all three of her Grand Slam titles in straight sets. 

Nineteen of the last 21 women’s finals at Roland-Garros have gone to the winner of the first set and Swiatek is an incredibly good front-runner. In Grand Slams, when she’s won the first set, she has lost just four times; at Roland-Garros, when she’s won the first set, she’s unbeaten.

When you throw in the fact that it’s Muchova’s first Slam final, if the Czech can win the opening set, not only will it settle any nerves, it will also set her up nicely.


Iga Swiatek, Roland-Garros 2023, semi-final© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Muchova has to get to the net

The world No.43 won’t want to get embroiled in too many hard-hitting groundstroke rallies. Her game is based on variety, with her backhand slice a real weapon and her drop shots outstanding. 

But if Muchova is to have a chance, she also needs to get forward as often as she can. The Czech has won 107 of her 142 points at the net at this year’s tournament, a superb ratio that includes 21 of 28 in the semi-finals against Aryna Sabalenka, one of the hardest hitters on tour. 


Swiatek strong under pressure

Even when Swiatek has been tested this fortnight, she has proven to be obstinate in terms of giving up her serve. She’s only been broken eight times, never more than twice in a match, and she’s saved 20 of her 28 break points in total.

That ability to come up with something extra special at the biggest moments is a sign of a champion and Muchova, who has saved 18 of the 36 break points she’s faced, will need to take every chance she gets while at the same time trying to fend off Swiatek, who has also capitalised on 29 of her 39 break points. 

Karolina Muchova, demi-finales, Roland-Garros 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Defence of second serve crucial

Part of Muchova’s success has been down to how well she’s defended her second serve.

On average over her six matches, she’s won 61 per cent of points behind it, which is high, second overall in the women's rankings for this event and well above the tournament average of 43 per cent. Swiatek averages 55 per cent, which is also very good, but Muchova has done it by varying the speed and placement of her serve, never allowing her opponents to see the same ball twice in a row.

Swiatek will be aggressive on return – she averages 53 per cent of points won on her opponent’s first serve (third overall) – but Muchova has the skills to cope.

Experience may yet count

The one unknown is how Muchova handles the occasion.

We know from Swiatek’s three previous Grand Slam finals that she is strong mentally, but this is a first Slam final for the Czech and even for someone who seems so unflappable, the biggest stages can cause even the calmest players to stress.

There’s so much at stake for both women but for Muchova, while she could say she has nothing to lose, she also doesn’t know if this is a one-off or not, so the nerves will inevitably be there.