Korda Stays Focused, Defeats Tsonga In Montpellier

Sebastian Korda (photo: Open Sud de France/Facebook)

WASHINGTON, February 23, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Following the completion of the Australian Open, the season’s first major, the ATP has branched out across three continents this week – Europe, Asia and South America – with competition in Montpellier, France; Singapore, and Cordoba, Argentina.

Highlighting Monday’s play, 92nd-ranked NextGen ATP rising star Sebastian Korda of the United States advanced to the second round of the Open Sud de France with a well-deserved 6-4, 6-2 victory over former champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The 20-year-old Korda struck five aces and won 83 percent (38 of 46) of his service points against the 66th-ranked Tsonga, returning from a back injury that had sidelined him the past 13 months, since the 2020 Australian Open, in a highly-anticipated first-round contest. Korda saved both break points he faced while converting three of six chances against the Frenchman.

“It was definitely special [to play Tsonga]; I grew up watching him my whole life,” said Korda during an on-court interview following his win. “To get the chance to be able to play against him was an honor for me. I hope he can stay healthy and keep playing tennis. … He’s such an incredible entertainer and an incredible person. …

“I just tried to stay focused and take care of my side of the court. I know he hasn’t played tennis in 14 months [or so], so it definitely wasn’t easy for him. I’m super happy with the way I played.”

Other first round winners in Montpellier included No. 6 seed Ugo Humbert of France, who defeated No. 93 Norbert Gombos of Slovakia, 6-3, 7-6 (3); and No. 7 seed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy took out 162nd-ranked Frenchman Hugo Gaston, 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-1. Great Britain’s Andy Murray, ranked 121st, who accepted a wild card into the the ATP 250 indoor hardcourt event, will face No. 83 Egor Gerasimov of Belarus on Tuesday evening.

• In Singapore, No. 5 seed Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan advanced over No. 178 Michael Mmoh of the United States, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, while No. 7 seed Lloyd Harris of South Africa fell to 423rd-ranked wild card Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, in this indoor hardcourt event.

• At Cordoba on red clay, No. 128 Josef Kovalik of Slovakia and 1,165th-ranked wild card Nicolas Jarry of Chile, playing in his first ATP main draw match since his doping suspension, advanced to the second round, while four qualifying draw matches filled out the main draw. World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman is the tournament’s top seed and awaits Tuesday’s winner between No. 112 Hugo Dellien of Bolivia and No. 87 Marco Cecchinato of Italy.

Congratulating the champions

From the WTA Insider

Happy 49th Birthday, Michael Chang

What they’re saying

Naomi Osaka on what her ultimate tennis goal is:

“This is going to sound really odd, but hopefully I play long enough to play a girl who said that I was once her favorite player. That would be like the coolest thing that could happen to me.”

Novak Djokovic on what drives him to excel:

“Roger and Rafa inspire me. I think as long as they go, I’ll go. In a way it’s a race [of] who plays tennis more, I guess, and who wins more. It’s a competition between us in all areas. But I think that’s the very reason why we are who we are – because we do drive each other, we motivate each other, we push each other to the limit.”

What they’re writing

Tumaini Carayol, tennis correspondent for The Guardian of London, writes about how Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka aims for all-court dominance to fulfill her potential.

What they’re podcasting

What they’re sharing on social media

Novak Djokovic / A bond that will never be broken

Elise Mertens / Treasure the moments

Naomi Osaka / Posing with Daphne

Jessica Pegula / Thank you Australian Open

Mark Petchey / One of the best views in tennis

Lucas Pouille / On my way back