Sabalenka was on the verge of reaching her second Grand Slam final at this year's Roland Garros, leading Muchova 5-2 in the deciding set. But the Czech reeled off five straight games to turn the set and the match on its head and deny Sabalenka the chance to dethrone Iga Swiatek in the final.
Speaking to the media following her straight sets win over Tunisia's Ons Jabeur in Cincinnati, the Belarusian power hitter was asked to revisit one of the most devastating losses in her career, which also included a match-point miss at 5-3 on Muchova's serve. She believes her unprofessionalism contributed to the defeat, which all stemmed from her failure to change her racket bags.
Sabalenka thought she had carried an extra racket in her bags, but was startled not to find any fresh racket when new balls were introduced nine games into the third set. As alarming as it sounds, Sabalenka pointed the finger at herself.
"I've been super unprofessional, super stupid, all these whatever you want to call it. It was all about me there. I was pretty sure that I had an extra racquet in my bag. Then I think they changed the balls, so I was looking for a new racquet. I was just, like, shocked. I think that's probably affected me a lot to keep playing because I didn't have a fresh racquet."
Sabalenka could be seen barking orders to her box, asking for a new racket that was brought to the court, but it had the 'wrong tension' according to her. Sabalenka requested a high string tension for the newer racket.
One of the advantages of this feature is that power hitters have ultimate control of shots. Eventually, when she received that high-tension racket, Muchova was two points away from victory, and Sabalenka couldn't salvage the match.
"Yeah, it was the wrong tension. They had - how to say - less tension and more tension. I was asking for more tension. I mean, everyone was shocked that I was just, like, going crazy on the court. They just passed me the wrong racquet."
But now that she has learned her lesson, Sabalenka says that situation was not going to happen again, as she ensures her bag is fully loaded before a match.
"But, like, lesson learned. Now we have plenty of racquets (laughter). I really hope it's not going to happen again. So I've been super unprofessional. Not like I really hope, but it's not going to happen again (smiling)."