No Stranger to Citi Open, Sebastian Korda wants to win in DC
The last time Sebastien korda, a 20-year-old tennis pro, was in Washington, he wasn’t there to play tennis. Instead, Korda and his father, Petr, is part of Radek Štěpanekthe entourage of the 2014 Citi Open. Young Korda accompanied the two and observed the daily routine of what a professional tennis player needs. But he doesn’t have the most positive memories of the trip. Štěpánek, the 11th seed in the men’s draw that year, lost in the second round to the non-seeds Malek Jaziri in three sets.
“The player my father coached, Radek Štěpánek, was playing a night game,” Korda recalled on Tuesday. “He was up, like, a set, 4-1, double break, 40-15, and lost the game. “
Seven years later, it’s Korda who plays at the Citi Open. On Tuesday, he beat the finalist of the Citi Open 2014 Vasek Pospisil in the second round, then a few hours later, teamed up with a 19-year-old Sinner jannik from Italy to win their first-round doubles match. (Disclosure: City paper owner Marc Ein took charge of the Citi Open in 2019.) Korda, who grew up in Bradenton, Fla., has had an exceptional season and is part of the next generation of rising stars in American tennis that includes Brandon nakashima and Jenson brooksby, who are both 20 and won their Citi Open matches on Tuesday.
Korda, whose older sisters, Jessica and nelly, are professional golfers and Olympians, won his first ATP Tour title in May in Italy and reached the round of 16 on his debut at Wimbledon. He arrived at the Citi Open with a lot of confidence. Korda, ranked 45th in the world and seeded 12th at the Citi Open, only turned pro three years ago.
“I’ve had a really good year so far,” Korda said. “Sometimes you don’t realize how great a year you had been. A year ago I was ranked 220 in the world. Now I’m in the top 50 competing for tournaments. The process was sped up very quickly… Sometimes you don’t realize how well you are doing. I really noticed that after Wimbledon. I kind of sat down and thought about the year, how it went. Yeah, just super happy with the way everything is going. I get to work. Every day I’m just so grateful to be here.
Every time Korda traveled to DC with his father and Štěpánek, he remembered his family’s connection to the Citi Open. In 1992 Petr, the current coach of Korda, the 1998 Australian Open champion, and former top 10 player, won the tournament, then called NationsBank Classic, as the No.1 seed. Their surname adorns the blue awning that surrounds the stadium court. The name of Štěpánek is also there. The Czech won the 2011 Citi Open.
Korda plays the winner between Sinner and Emil Ruusuvuori in the third round tomorrow.
“That would be super cool,” he said of the possibility of winning a tournament his dad won. “My dad won it, then Radek, he won here too. I think it would be really great, for my dad to train him, then I train. If we were to be successful and win this tournament it would be something super special for sure.
On July 31, Korda entered the stadium court as Rafael Nadalpractice partner of. The two faced each other in a fourth round match at Roland Garros 2020, which Nadal won in straight sets. Korda first met Nadal, who is making his Citi Open debut tonight, way before that. He was 8 years old and was at the Miami Masters with his father when he saw Nadal leaving the locker room. Nadal said hello.
“Ever since I started playing tennis I really admired him,” said Korda. “Now being able to train and play against him is a dream come true. Hopefully we can have a lot more battles against each other.
Nadal was equally excited and predicted great things for the child he met 13 years ago. The two are on opposite sides of the Citi Open draw and could meet in the final if both advance this far.
“Good physicality, good serve, good shots from the baseline. I think he’s a great guy, a complete player, ”Nadal said of Korda. “He has a lot to do in the next few years in our sport. I think I still believe since I saw him play that he is going to have the chance to be one of the best players in the world… I think he has everything he needs to be a guy definitely in the top. Of course, then things are not easy and you have to keep improving. But I really believe, if you ask me, that it’s going to be a big one.