With family ties, Korda of US heads to Wimbledon’s 4th round

Jul 1, 2021, 6:46 PM | Updated: Jul 2, 2021, 3:34 pm

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — When Sebastian Korda struck his last competitive shot as a 20-year-old — an overhead winner that closed out a third-round victory over Wimbledon’s No. 22 seed on Friday — the American raised both arms, then doubled over and rested his hands on his knees.

Up in a Centre Court guest box, the body language of his father, 1998 Australian Open champion Petr, was strikingly similar. Arms in the air, then leaning forward, reaching for the railing in front of his seat.

The younger Korda’s family bloodlines are serving him rather well at the moment. He is the son of two former professional tennis players — he credits his mother, Regina Rajchrtova, with teaching him to be calm on court — and the brother of two current stars in women’s golf — one of whom, Nelly, is ranked No. 1 and just won her first major — and is looking as if he very well could be the men’s tennis star his country has been awaiting for quite some time.

With an aggressive style that’s built for grass courts, Korda got past Britain’s Dan Evans 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to become the youngest U.S. man to reach the round of 16 at the All England Club since Andy Roddick got to the semifinals in 2003.

“Just felt incredibly comfortable,” Korda said. “And, yeah, it was perfect today.”

His father’s take? Essentially: Not so fast.

“It’s not over,” Dad said. “Let’s not celebrate until this is done.”

Wearing a black baseball hat and occasionally draping a white towel over his shoulders on the warmest day of the tournament so far, with the temperature rising toward the mid-70s Fahrenheit (20s Celsius), Petr was in a state of perpetual motion Friday. Any parent whose kids play sports at any level could relate, really, as he squirmed in his spot in the stands.

“It was nerve-wracking. I tell you, honestly, it’s easier to be on the golf course, because I can walk always,” he said, referring to watching his two daughters compete. “But with Sebi, I had to be sitting still, you know? That’s not easy.”

One, tiny measure of how quickly his son is developing: He is only the eighth man since 2001 to reach the fourth round at both the All England Club and Roland Garros before turning 21.

Of the other seven, four went on to be ranked No. 1 and win multiple Grand Slam titles: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Lleyton Hewitt. Another won one major (Marin Cilic), and the other two were Slam runners-up (Stefanos Tsitsipas, still only 22 himself, and Tomas Berdych).

Roddick’s triumph at the 2003 U.S. Open remains the most recent Grand Slam singles title for an American man, the longest drought in history for a nation that produced Bill Tilden, Arthur Ashe, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

Eight-time major champ Agassi just so happens to be a mentor of sorts for Korda; they spent two weeks working together in Las Vegas late last year and speak on the phone frequently.

“The most important thing he told me yesterday was just to enjoy it,” Korda said. “It’s your first time on Centre Court at Wimbledon, just enjoy it, embrace it, have a lot of fun.”

Check. Check. And check.

On Monday, Korda’s 21st birthday, he’ll face No. 25 seed Karen Khachanov, a Russian who eliminated Frances Tiafoe of the U.S. in straight sets.

“I played a little tight. I knew it was a good opportunity,” said Tiafoe, who beat No. 3 seed Tsitsipas in the first round but now has lost to Khachanov at Wimbledon twice since 2018. “I just wanted to win too bad.”

Other men’s fourth-rounders: No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 17 Cristian Garin, No. 5 Andrey Rublev against Marton Fucsovics and No. 8 Roberto Bautista Agut against No. 10 Denis Shapovalov, who ended Andy Murray’s first Wimbledon singles appearance since 2017 by defeating the two-time champion 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

“I can’t say that I’m too pleased with the way I performed. I felt like today I was a bit off, especially with serving,” said Djokovic, who was broken twice in a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7) victory over American qualifier Denis Kudla that made him 17-0 in Slam matches this season.

Women’s matchups on Monday: No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka vs. No. 18 Elena Rybakina, No. 7 Iga Swiatek vs. No. 21 Ons Jabeur, No. 8 Karolina Pliskova vs. Liudmila Samsonova and No. 23 Madison Keys vs. Viktorija Golubic.

Korda is making his Wimbledon debut and participating in any Grand Slam tournament for only the third time. He made a splash at the French Open last year by getting to the fourth round before losing to his idol, Nadal (Korda’s cat is named after the 20-time major champion).

He’d never been to Centre Court until Friday, as a player, fan or otherwise, and resisted the temptation to pull out his cellphone to shoot some video.

“They always show how the players are walking through all the rooms, then walking down the stairs,” he said. “I just thought to myself: ‘This is nuts. What’s about to happen is going to be something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.'”

Korda showed off a useful serve he varies well, groundstrokes that are strong off both sides and a willingness — well, desire — to go to the net, where he won the point on 30 of 43 trips.

“All credit to him. He played some strong tennis,” said Evans, Britain’s top player at the moment, who was backed by a partisan crowd but found himself muttering toward his coach and cursing enough to earn an official warning. “He’s obviously going to be a very good player.”

___ AP Sports Writer Steven Wine in Miami contributed to this report.


More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

7 months ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

7 months ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

7 months ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

7 months ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

7 months ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

7 months ago

With family ties, Korda of US heads to Wimbledon’s 4th round