Korda plays catch-up in wonderful family, with a little help from Agassi

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Sebastian Korda says he is “the worst athlete” in his high-achieving sports family, but with a little help from tennis legend Andre Agassi, the up-and-coming American is working hard to change the dynamic.

The 22-year-old stunned two-time losing finalist and seventh seed Daniil Medvedev at the Australian Open on Friday, weeks after pushing Novak Djokovic to his limits in the Adelaide International final.

Known as Sebi, his composed performances reflect what has been clear for some time: he is on the rise and has plenty to live up to in the Korda family.

His father Petr is a former world number two who won the Australian Open in 1998, while his mother Regina Rajchrtova was a Czech player who rose to rank 26 in the world.

His older sisters are equally as prodigious with Nelly, an eight-time LPGA Tour winner, current world number two, and an Olympic champion.

Jessica also chose golf instead of tennis and she too excelled, winning six titles to date.

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“I don’t know how I will be ranked (after his win), but my mother’s career was 26, my father was two, my sister Nelly was number one, my oldest sister Jessica was six,” said Korda, currently ranked 31 .

“So I’m definitely the worst athlete in the family yet!”

Nelly certainly didn’t believe it for a minute when he told broadcaster Golf Channel on Friday during the Tournament of Champions in Florida: “Honestly, he’s the best.

“His hand-eye coordination is incredible. His swing — I’m actually jealous of his swing. It’s crazy. He’s a southpaw. He’s a natural right-hander, but he plays golf left-handed.

“He played hockey lefty. I mean he grew up playing hockey. He was pretty good at it too. He skates really well, plays good golf, plays great tennis.”

Djokovic noticed his talents in Adelaide this month after fending off a championship point to beat him in the final, with the 92-time title list saying he played “nice-looking tennis”.

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Medvedev, who drops to 12th after his defeat, is another admirer who likens his game to that of the Serbian superstar.

“The most difficult thing is that he hits the ball very strongly. Probably one of the strongest hitters,” said the Russian.

“His game is different from everyone else because he is very aggressive and takes the ball very early. A bit like Novak maybe.”

A junior champion at Melbourne Park, Korda will face Polish 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz next Sunday for a place in the quarterfinals.

– Special Person –

His steady rise through the rankings and run to the fourth round can be partly attributed to eight-time Grand Slam winner Agassi acting as a mentor.

“He’s one of the most special people in my life,” Korda said of the Las Vegas star, who stayed up until 5am to watch him beat Medvedev.

“We started talking during Covid in 2020. He has been one of the biggest parts of my rise. Generally just as a tennis player, as a human being.

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“We spend a lot of time together. Yes, he is very special to me.”

Korda also attributes a new positive mindset to his great start to the season, which he received from his mother and new coaches Martin Stepanek and Radek Stepanek, both former players.

“That’s one of the greatest things, just having a new motto of ‘positive energy is more positive than negative energy.’ As soon as you get something negative, it can send you in the opposite direction,” he said.

“My mom is always really big on having a good attitude. I just try to take it one step further, just try to do it all the time.

“Especially bringing in two new coaches, Martin Stepanek and Radek Stepanek, they are very big on that. So I think it plays a big role in my game at the moment. It works very well.”

mp/dh

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