Sebastian Korda had perhaps the most privileged pre-season as he trained with tennis’ power couple Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf. The American seems to have made the most of it as he reached his first ATP final at the season opener in Delray Beach.
Korda remembers being star struck by Graf, a 22-time major champion and a Golden Grand Slam holder, and inspired by her competitiveness.
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“I was on court a couple of times with Steffi, I didn’t want to play with her,” the 20-year-old, who defeated Cameron Norrie 6-3, 7-5 in the Delray Beach semi-finals on Tuesday, said.
“I was way too intimidated by her. Her forehand crosscourt was just killing me so I was like ‘I can’t do this anymore’,” he said.
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“She would give me some tips on the court and the energy that she brings every single day. You just knew that she was such a competitor, she’d get mad at herself when she missed, she would skyrocket, it was awesome to see her on court, it was super special.”
Korda is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his parents. His father, Petr, who played for the Czech Republic, won the Australian Open in 1998 and reached the French Open final in 1992. His mother, Regina, peaked at No 26 on the WTA charts.
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In fact, it was his father, who now lives in USA, who arranged for his son to train with eight-time major champion Agassi.
“During the pandemic, I was practising just in the courts next door to our house, and I was getting kind of mentally tired,” Korda told ATPTour.com before the start of the season.
Hockey on his mind 🏒
🇺🇸 @SebiKorda is a ride or die @NHLBruins fan.@DelrayBeachOpen | #DBOpen pic.twitter.com/JAPaA63dxI
— ATP Tour (@atptour) January 12, 2021
“So my dad had a great idea to maybe reach out to him. They used to play doubles together; I think Andre’s only doubles title was with my dad.”
“He sees the game way different than most people, that’s for sure,” Korda, ranked 119, said of Agassi.
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“He reads opponents, just kind of getting the feeling for how matches are playing. Some of the stuff he thinks about, you would never think about during a match or before a match.”
The 20-year-old, who was one of the young breakthrough stars of 2020, is poised for another landmark win as he takes on Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz in the Delray Beach final on Wednesday.