Melbourne | Korda follows Dad to Junior AO win
Twenty years after Petr Korda won the Australian Open, his son, Sebastien, pulled off a remarkable double for the family by winning the Junior Boys Championships on the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.
I would just have fun out there and maybe go out once every two weeks just to hit a couple of balls with my dad Sebastien Korda
The 17-year-old American, who was seeded 7th for the title, beat Chinese Taipei’s Chun Hsin Tseng, 7-6(6) 6-4, in Saturday’s final, on the very same court that his father won the men’s championship on, just five days shy of the anniversary.
This extraordinary story, however, doesn’t end there.
In an incredible sporting treble unlikely, Korda’s 24-year-old sister, Jessica, won the 2012 Australian Open Golf Championships at Royal Melbourne, not to mention the 2008 US Open at just 15.
Korda, who plays off a two handicap himself, has another sister, Nelly, also playing on the LPGA Tour, leaving the family home in Florida needing an extra room for all their trophies.
More remarkably, Sebastian only committed to tennis seven years ago after growing up obsessed with ice hockey.
“Until aged 10, I played one or two times a week but I mainly played hockey four times a week,” Korda said.
“Then I went to the US Open in 2011 and loved the atmosphere over there and decided, when I came home, that wanted to only play tennis.
“I was nothing. I played my first tournament when I was 11 or 12 years old. I would just have fun out there and maybe go out once every two weeks just to hit a couple of balls with my dad.”
Korda had pulled off a stunning semi-final upset over second-seeded Marko Miladinovic of Serbia, winning 7-5 5-7 6-4 on Friday to reach the final.
The elder Korda is young Sebastian’s main coach, but is not on this trip to Australia, so he is travelling instead with the help of a coach from the IMG Academy where he trains, and a USTA coach.
Korda, who reached the round-of-16 at Roland Garros, and the second round at Wimbledon, believes his game has improved heading into 2018.
His father needed just 85 minutes to dispatch Marcelo Rios in the 1998 men’s final on the then-green Rod Laver Arena, but Sebastian was pushed throughout the 91-minute title match as Tseng’s tidy all-court game proved the perfect foil for the American’s heavy-hitting baseline play.
The 6’ 3” American found himself on the back foot early on, dropping serve to love as Tseng came out on top after four lengthy exchanges in the opening game.
The 16-year-old’s advantage, however, lasted just three games before Korda broke back to level up at 2-2.
With temperatures hovering around the 30°C mark and a clear blue sky over Melbourne Park, play was briefly interrupted by a ball kid who fainted and was helped from the court.
Korda, having checked on the youngster’s wellbeing, held for 3-2 and had two points to break for a 5-3 lead, only for Tseng to produce some fine defensive play to get out of trouble.
The compact Taiwanese, who was seeded 6, had the speed and all-court game to counter Korda’s easy power, particularly off the backhand wing.
He fashioned two break point opportunities for himself at 5-5, prompting Korda to switch to rally mode, patiently awaiting errors to escape before seeing a set point come and go at 6-5 when his return sailed long.
Tseng produced some of his best tennis of the contest early in the tiebreak, firing a stunning inside-out forehand winner to open up a 3-0 lead, and a loose forehand from Korda that sailed long helped him to 5-2.
A pin-point forehand winner down the line saw the American level up at 5-5, and the set was his when Tseng sent a backhand into the tramlines before firing a forehand long.
Tseng rallied to make a bright start to the second, a deft drop-shot helping him to a 2-0 lead, but Korda broke back immediately and roared with delight as he hammered a forehand winner on the run to break once more for a 3-2 lead.
Neither player could relax on serve, Tseng scampering to reach 15-30 in the eighth game with a stunning curling forehand that Korda could only dolly back for the 16-year-old to guide past him into the open court.
Having consolidated for 5-3 Korda surged to the finish line, firing his 34th winner of the match to bring up match point before Tseng flashed a short forehand wide.
He celebrated the victory with his father’s trademark scissor-kick before the trophy ceremony.
“It’s definitely special, including being here in Australia – I mean, my sister won her first title here as well,” said Korda. “My dad won his only Grand Slam title here, so it’s very special.
“The main goal here, was try to get this tournament for my dad on his 50th birthday. My mom’s birthday is on the 5th of February, so it’s special as well.
“It feels good,” Korda added. “Any victory is a good victory. I think we played really good tennis for all three sets.”
Despite his father initially hoping his son wouldn’t follow in his footsteps, the former world No 2 never really stood a chance once Sebastian started watching videos of his dad winning the 1998 Australian Open.
“Every once in a while, I’ll put on a video when I need a little inspiration,” Korda said before admitting it was more like once a month these days.
“I’ve watched a lot of his matches. He was so smooth when he played. I try to be like him. I practise with him almost every single day when I’m home.
“I try to model my game on him as much as I can.
“Both dad and my mum have had a very big influence. They support me every day and my sisters were always in contact together and we’re all very close,” Korda added.
“They obviously pushed me, but it’s my choice and it’s what I want to do so I push myself as much as I can.”
Petr Korda was back in Brandeton, Florida, as his son lifted the Perpetual Trophy, but Sebastian had a message waiting on his phone once his press duties were complete.
Korda’s victory denied Taiwan a rare double after En Shuo Liang earlier on Saturday defeated France’s Clara Burel 6-3 6-4 in the Australian Open junior girls’ singles final.