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Feature: Sebi Korda Thriving in the Family Business

Sebi Korda Thriving in the Family Business
October 13, 2023

There's a constant talking point surrounding Sebastian Korda in his travels on the ATP Tour. 

As the son of former pro players Petr Korda and Regina Rajchrtova, the 23-year-old American is regularly asked about his rich tennis heritage. Given the passion they've helped instil in Korda, it's a subject he's only too happy to discuss. 

"Tennis is something that I just love doing," smiled Korda, whose first experiences on the tour were in tournament locker rooms as a toddler. 

"It doesn't matter if it's playing, watching, I watch tennis all day long, basically. I just really enjoy being here, really enjoy playing tennis."

The sporting talents don't end there for the Korda family. His older sisters, Jessica and Nelly, are both talented LPGA golf professionals. The 30-year-old Jessica is a winner of six titles, while Nelly, 25, peaked at world No.1 and won the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo. 

It's reasonable to wonder whether all the family success - including Petr's Grand Slam breakthrough, as the Australian Open 1998 champion - creates a burden of expectation. 

"I don't think it creates any pressure," said the multi-skilled Korda, who briefly considered a hockey career and won a golf tournament in Prague at age 11. "In the end, we're all doing kind of what we love to do."

As he pursues that passion, Korda is driven by his father's achievements. Where Petr won a single Grand Slam title in Australia (and was a finalist at Roland Garros), his son's ultimate goal is to lift several major trophies. 

"Obviously, I would love to be better than my dad," he said, having already partly replicated his father's success as the Australian Open 2018 boys' champion.

It helps that both parents can instil lessons from their own years on tour. "One of the biggest things of having a father who played tennis was to kind of understand certain moments," said Korda, after surviving a tense third-set tiebreak against Ben Shelton in the quarterfinals.

"Both my parents really taught me to always believe in yourself, no matter the situation, to just really go after it."
That sage advice has helped Korda achieve a new career high at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. On his debut at the tournament, the No.26 seed has progressed to a first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal. He's the first American to achieve that milestone in Shanghai.  

Sitting at a new career-high of world No.23 in the ATP's live rankings, Korda is also encouraged by progress in his recovery from the wrist injury that sidelined him early in the year. 

He explained the "super long journey" his recovery had required. "I was out for three months, and just had to re-learn, basically, all the tennis stuff that I did, especially with the wrist," he said. 
"I was, basically, every single practice, every single forehand that I hit, I was kind of just praying that it would stop hurting, and it just never would."

Now back on the tour, Korda is pleased to receive practice guidance from his parents, including tips on cities they visited in their own playing careers. "It just makes it a lot easier having someone so experienced and who went to so many places," he said. 

He's also maintaining family connections in other ways. With Petr and Regina both born in the Czech Republic, it follows that the US-born Sebastian is fluent in both Czech and English. He converses with his parents in both languages at home in Florida and in Czech when he's in Europe. 

Korda's coaches, the unrelated Martin Stepanek and Radek Stepanek, are also Czech and typically converse with him in that language. 

Meanwhile, Sebastian is embracing every moment of his visit to Shanghai. It's been a whirlwind few weeks for the 23-year-old, who was a semi-finalist in Zhuhai and then reached the final in Astana, before returning to China to contest the Rolex Shanghai Masters. 

"So not a lot of rest for me but it's been great news," he said. "I got a lot of matches under my belt."

And while a first Masters title is of course the ultimate goal, there's another first he'd love to experience in his trip.  

"I was really looking forward to come to China for the first time and really enjoying myself so far, hopefully we see some panda," he smiled. "I haven't seen a panda yet, so that's kind of what we're looking for."

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