ATP

Sebastian Korda: Family Ties, Hard Work, and a Career-Best Result

Six months ago, Sebastian Korda was nothing more than a youngster with hopes of making it where his dad did. Now, he’s into his first ATP quarterfinal.

Not many people knew the name Sebastian Korda six months ago. Some knew his dad, the former 1998 Australian Open champion and ’92 French Open runner-up, but only the most hardcore of fans knew of the 20-year-old American.

October came around, however, and the world was introduced to the hotshot teenager in Paris. After barely sniffing ATP main draws in 2020 (his only appearances came at Cincinnati and the US Open, where he lost in the first round at both), Korda ripped through the French Open’s qualifying rounds and followed that up with wins over Andreas Seppi, John Isner, and Pedro Martinez to advance to the Round of 16.

Despite getting humbled by Rafael Nadal shortly after, the youngster had already shot himself into the limelight.

“I’m super proud of myself,” Korda said after his win over Martinez in Paris. “I was doing everything all by myself. The work is showing right now. I know that I won’t have to worry about my body giving up on me because I know I put in the hard work.”

The work is certainly paying off for Korda. After that run to the Round of 16 at Roland Garros, he raced to his first Challenger Tour title in Eckental to end 2020 and is now through to his first-ever ATP Tour-level quarterfinal in Delray Beach. With victories of Soon-woo Kwon and Tommy Paul, Korda isn’t showing any signs of stopping as he faces a familiar countryman, John Isner, in the quarterfinals.

Hard work isn’t a stranger to the 20-year-old but a tough 2020 season left him mentally tired leading into this week. It’s a common trend for younger players to struggle with the mental side of the game. Their relative inexperience in comparison to their older counterparts on the pro tours can be a major disadvantage at times down the stretch, especially when they’re at the very top of the list in terms of tournaments entered.

A welcome change came for Korda leading into the week, however, after training with ATP legend Andre Agassi.

“He sees the game way different than most people, that’s for sure,” Korda told the ATP Tour last week. “Some of the stuff he thinks about, you would never think about during a match or before a match.”

It’s certainly paying off for the World No. 119 as he fought out of a one set hole against Paul two days ago. The hyper-aggressive Korda is going to have his hands full as Isner has already served up 22 aces in his only match so far (to Korda’s 11 through two matches). The faster hard courts will tip the scales to Isner even more so (especially in comparison to their first meeting at Roland Garros).

The cards are stacked up against the junior but the same can be said last year in this very same matchup. Look how that turned out. The winner of this matchup will face the winner of 8th-seeded Frances Tiafoe and unseeded Cameron Norrie (who took out 3rd-seeded Adrian Mannarino to advance into the final eight).

Korda takes on Isner tonight at 6 PM EST and will look to add to his career-best main draw result in hopes of bolstering his chances at appearing in next month’s Australian Open.