Sebastian Korda: The rising US tennis star who is the ‘worst athlete in the family’
By Ben Church, CNN
Sebastian Korda may have knocked out some of the world’s best players in his run to his first Australian Open quarterfinal, but the 22-year-old still says he’s the “worst athlete” in his family.
In truth, the young American has tougher competition than most, coming from a family full of champions across two different sports.
Both of his parents are former tennis players. His dad, Petr, won the Australian Open in 1998, while his mother, Regina Rajchrtova, achieved a career high ranking of 26.
His sisters, Jessica and Nelly, are both professional golf players — and very good ones at that.
Jessica has won six LPGA events in her career, while Nelly won the Women’s PGA Championship in 2021.
Speaking after beating two-time finalist Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the third round on Friday, Korda served up a slice of self-deprecation.
“I don’t know what I’m going to be ranked,” he said in his post-match interview on court.
“But my mom’s career high was 26, my dad was two, my sister Nelly was No. 1, my older sister Jessica was six, so I’m definitely the worst athlete in the family so far!”
Exciting form Down Under
Korda, who is currently world No. 31, is likely to rise up the rankings after a brilliant run in Melbourne.
After beating two-time Australian Open finalist Medvedev on Friday, he followed it up with a hard-fought victory over Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz to reach the quarterfinal stage for the first time in his career.
He needed five-sets to get past Hurkacz, though, including a nail-biting, final-set tiebreak in which he relied on some superstition.
“The towel got me through it,” he laughed. “Every time I went to the towel, I won the point, so I just kept going to it. My new friend.”
Korda is part of a new generation of American tennis players who have started making an impact on the sport’s biggest stages.
However, Korda’s run in Australia came to an unfortunate end on Tuesday after he was forced to retire from his quarterfinal match against Karen Khachanov with a wrist injury.
Korda was trailing 7-6 6-3 3-0 when he was forced to withdraw.
Korda is a former junior champion at the Australian Open and won his first, and so far only, ATP title two years ago.
He also came a point away from defeating Novak Djokovic at the Adelaide International on January 8, demonstrating his ability to perform against the best.
“The American players have pushed each other and helped each other to believe they can compete close to that level,” former player turned broadcaster John McEnroe said in a recent interview with Eurosport when discussing possible winners at Melbourne this year.
“If I had to pick one, I’d probably pick Sebastian Korda; he’s the youngest of that current top group of Americans and the one with the most upside right now.”
‘Honestly, he’s the best’
In addition to his talented family, Korda can also lean on the support of mentor Andre Agassi.
The eight-time grand slam champion has been helping his young compatriot for the last two years, during which he has become one of the most exciting prospects on tour.
Korda said Agassi has has been staying up all night in the US to watch him play his games in Melbourne and he’s grateful for the support.
“He’s one of the most special people in my life. We started talking during Covid in 2020. He’s been one of the biggest parts in my rise,” Korda said, according to the ATP.
“Just overall, just as a tennis player, as a human being. We spend a lot of time together. Yeah, he’s very special to me.”
Korda will face Russian Karen Khachanov in the quarterfinals on Tuesday and, no doubt, his whole family will be watching.
His sister Nelly, though, has no time for her little brother’s modesty.
“It’s complete BS,” she told reporters at the LPGA’s Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions on Saturday, when asked about her brother’s claims about being the worst in the family.
“Honestly, he’s the best. His hand-eye coordination is unbelievable. His swing — I’m jealous of his swing actually.
“It’s crazy. He’s a lefty. He’s a natural righty, but he plays golf lefty. He played hockey lefty. I mean, he grew up playing hockey — he was pretty good at it, too.
“He skates really nicely, plays golf nicely, plays tennis beautifully.”
While it remains to be seen how he fares in Melbourne, Korda has all the makings of the next great American star.
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