First Top 10 Win Gives Korda Night To Remember

Sebastian Korda (photo: courtesy ATP video)

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, March 31, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Sebastian Korda began his memorable Tuesday as one of four Americans playing in the round of 16 at the Miami Open presented by Itaú. By the time he took court against World No. 9, the other Americans – John Isner, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe – had all lost.

Korda, the #NextGenATP rising star from Florida, had other ideas. Losing was out of the question. Instead, the youngest of the quartet representing the red, white and blue went out and captured the first Top 10 victory of his career and advanced to his first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal with his 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 triumph over World No. 9 and fifth seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina.

Korda’s high risk, high reward style produced eight service aces and 38 winners to offset his 66 unforced errors. He was aided by Schwartman’s 44 unforced errors, plus 68 of his 108 points were produced in rallies that lasted five shots or less.

During an on-court interview following the match, Korda said of Schwartzman: “He made it tough. In that first set, I served super-hot, but he didn’t serve that well. But then, he picked it up and he was just fighting and he was playing some really good tennis after that, and then the third set was just a battle.”

Indeed, in the final set, Korda broke Schwartzman in the opening game and it nearly stood up. That is, until Schwartzman broke in the 10th game – saving a match point – as Korda tried to serve for the match, ahead 5-4. However, Korda redeemed himself in the 11th game by breaking Schwartzman on his second opportunity of the game. Not to be denied again, Korda won the final game on his racquet at love.

During his virtual press conference, Tennis TourTalk asked Korda what, if any, encouragement his father and coach, Petr Korda, gave him before the match. He said: “I always talk with my parents before each match and they wish me good luck, [tell me to] work hard, have fun, stay calm and do your thing. They keep me calm and keep me motivated.”

Did Korda in his wildest dreams think he would top his Top 20 win over Fabio Fognini from earlier in the tournament with a Top 10 triumph against Schwartzman? “Yeah, my parents are super big on baby steps. I mean, you can play tennis for so long if you stay healthy for 15-plus years and, especially the guys, who are playing until 40. It’s incredible. There’s a lot of years ahead of me. Any win is a good win and I’ll always put my head down and keep working, and hopefully one day I can achieve what my dad achieved.”

Schwartzman showered Korda with praise, saying in his virtual press conference:

“Well, I really like how he’s playing. He’s looking very well on court. When I see him, like I said yesterday, I see many things similar to Tomas Berdych when he’s playing. I played against Tomas. I felt the same today, you know, on court.

“He’s hitting really hard the ball. He has very good timing, good serve, good movements. He looks like he’s playin in ATP Tour since many years ago.”

Next, Korda will face World No. 8 and fourth seed Andrey Rublev, who hit six aces and 18 winners en route to an easy 6-4, 6-4 win over Marin Cilic of Croatia, the only past Grand Slam champion in this year’s men’s draw. Rublev finished off his victory in an efficient one hour and 22 minutes for his tour-leading 19th victory in 22 matches this season.

• In the final round of 16 match Tuesday evening, No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece advanced over No. 24 seed Lorenzo Sonego from Italy, 6-2, 7-6 (7), in one hour and 31 minutes to reach his seventh Masters 1000 quarterfinal. The Greek’s victory came a day after he needed three sets to beat Kei Nishikori. Next, Tsitsipas will play No. 26 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, who earlier defeated No. 12 seed Milos Raonic of Canada, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4).

Svitolina wins, reaches semifinals against Barty

World No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine won her 13th match of the season, at times relying on her chosen weapon of surprise – the drop shot – to defeat unseeded Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, 6-3, 6-2, in 69 minutes Tuesday evening in the featured match on the Grandstand. It was her third career victory over Sevastova in four meetings.

The victory advanced Svitolina to her first Miami Open semifinal – a tournament she said during her on-court interview that she’s always wanted to do well in – where she will meet World No. 1 and top seed Ashleigh Barty in Thursday’s semifinal round. She’s 5-1 lifetime versus the Australian. Earlier Tuesday, Barty took out No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3.

Svitolina hit 19 winners to 18 unforced errors and broke Sevastova six times in seven opportunities. She outpointed her opponent 62-38.

During her post-match virtual press conference, Tennis TourTalk asked Svitolina about her choice of using the drop shot so effectively against Sevastova.

“Well, it’s, for me, always all the time try to find a good angle. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dropshot or it’s a lob or a shot down the line,” Svitolina said. “I just try to build the point and try to find the angles, try to find the opening. So dropshot, for sure, it’s I think underrated shot. Sometimes it works very good; I wish I could use it more.”

Is it a split decision, Elina?

“Yeah, for sure when you’re playing someone like Anastasija who gets a lot of balls back, you need to try to find better openings, you know. When you play someone, who moves really good and who gets lots of balls back, that I think very good option, you know, to keep them on their toes.

“For sure it’s one of the things that you do. But also, you have more time because, you know, she spins the ball. For example, like when someone is playing really flat, for sure, you know, you don’t have enough time to do dropshots. It’s probably trickier to do that.”

Post-match Q & A with Daniil Medvedev

After World No. 2 and Miami Open top seed Daniil Medvedev’s 6-4, 6-3 fourth-round victory over American Frances Tiafoe Tuesday, in which he fired 11 aces, hit 24 winners, won 78 percent of his first serves and outpointed his opponent 68-48 during the hour-and-a-half match, the 25-year-old Russian and Monte Carlo resident was in a talkative mood during his virtual press conference. After all, he’s into his first Miami Open quarterfinal, where he will face No. 7 seed. Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain on Wednesday.

Medvedev is fluent in Russian, English and French and, sometimes, he’ll take questions in all three languages when fielding questions from the international media. Tennis TourTalk was part of a small group who joined in for his virtual get-together Wednesday evening.

Tennis TourTalk: Daniil, earlier this month, Tennis TourTalk reported on the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy in Russia and had the opportunity to speak with two of your fellow Russian tennis players, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva. Both are in their mid-30s and each still exudes a very competitive desire to do well on the court. Do you hope to be playing competitive tennis ten years from now when you’re in your mid-30s?

Medvedev: “Yeah, definitely would love to. We never know. Some people lose motivation when they are 30. Some keep their motivation until they are 45 and maybe even play in challengers or futures.

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen in ten years. I have huge respect to both of them. Actually, Zvonareva, her first coach was same coach as mine, Ekaterina Kryuchkova, in Russia. I remember when I was like eight years-old, she was maybe No. 2 at this moment or something like this. She came to the small club where we were practicing, small kids, I was like maybe seven or eight, and it was snowing and we started throwing snowballs in her car (smiling). She was with the coach. That’s the story I remember.

“Sveta, I knew a little bit when I came on the tour basically, but, yeah, I mean, amazing sportswoman. Huge respect to her. Grand Slam champion. What else can you achieve? You can always achieve more, but she’s a huge champion, really nice person and love spending time with her.”

Tuesday’s Miami Open results – WTA

Tuesday’s Miami Open results – ATP

Wednesday’s Miami Open order of play

What they’re saying

• World No. 5 Elina Svitolina on reaching the Miami Open semifinals, her first semifinal run since winning at Strasbourg on clay last September: “Well, for sure it’s a good tournament for me, but I try to take every tournament as a challenge, and this one for sure I was working really hard physically, mentally as well, to play at this level.

“I beat very good players. I’m playing good tennis so I try to build on that. I try to focus, you know, on my semifinal right now, because it’s a big match for me. I don’t want to think so much about how the tournament goes right now. I just try to focus on my next match and to keep the same level.”

On Thursday Svitolina will oppose World No. 1 and top seed Ashleigh Barty.

• Reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek, who was eliminated during by Ana Konjuh in the third round of the Miami Open singles draw but is still through to the quarterfinals with Bethanie Mattek-Sands in doubles, posted on her social media platforms Tuesday:

What they’re telling Tennis TourTalk

Hubert Hurkacz, who earlier this season won the Delray Beach Open, spoke about his success in winning matches in Florida this year, where he’s currently undefeated (7-0) and into the Miami Open quarterfinals: “I mean, last year I spent here like over five months. So, I got used to the weather and the conditions here, so I think that’s kind of advantage for me.But each site is different. Each condition, the balls are different, but I enjoy being here and playing here.”

What they’re sharing on social media