Korda: Wimbledon Debut A Smashing Success

Sebastian Korda (photo: Wimbledon video)

LONDON/WASHINGTON, July 3, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

“A year ago, I was 220 in the world,” Sebastian Korda recalled during his post-match interview moments after he defeated British home favorite Dan Evans in four sets on Centre Court at the Wimbledon Championships Friday afternoon, “and I’m here in the fourth round at Wimbledon.

“It’s incredible. I have my family to thank, my coaches and everybody around me.”

Three days shy of his 21st birthday, the polite and charmingly handsome, 50th-ranked Korda from the United States knocked off the No. 22 seed Evans from Great Britain, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, in his Centre Court debut to advance to Monday’s fourth round against 25th seed Karen Khachanov, one of three Russians who have reached the round of 16.

The unseeded Korda, who has taken out two seeds in the first three rounds of this Wimbledon fortnight (the other being No. 15 seed Alex de Minaur), fired 13 aces and hit 51 winners – 30 more winners than Evans – to 43 unforced errors. He converted five of nine break-point opportunities and outpointed the Briton 113-99. Korda hit an overhead smash winner on match point that capped a nine-shot rally at the conclusion of the two hour and 24-minute match to become just the fifth Wimbledon rookie to reach the fourth round in the past decade.

“I think people here in Great Britain have found out why tennis fans in America are so excited by what they have seen from Sebastian Korda,” said Hall of Famer John McEnroe, commenting on the Korda-Evans match for the BBC. “He’s got the game, he’s got the belief, and he’s got the composure. He’s got it all, actually. He can only get better.”

At stake Monday on his birthday is a place in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Should the young Korda prevail against Khachanov, he would match his father’s best Wimbledon performance, which occurred in 1998. That’s the same year Petr Korda, who is now Sebastian’s coach, won the Australian Open.

It’s been quite a week in the Korda household. Last Sunday, Korda’s older sister, Nelly, a pro golfer, won her first Grand Slam tournament at the Women’s PGA Championships in Atlanta, Ga. “My dad won a Grand Slam,” Korda said. “My sister just won her first major and is the No. 1 golfer in the world. So, it’s super inspiring. It’s crazy.”

Korda’s victory over Evans improved his ATP Tour win-loss record to 21-9. After finishing runner-up at the Delay Beach Open by VITACOST.com in January, he won his first ATP Tour title at the Emilia-Romagna Open on clay in May. Prior to arriving at Wimbledon, Korda was a quarterfinalist in Halle on grass, defeating Roberto Bautista Agut and Kei Nishikori before losing to Ugo Humbert.

Wimbledon represents Korda’s second major fourth round run following his success at last year’s French Open. Over the past year, he’s established himself on all surfaces.

During his on-court interview, Korda was asked what he was most proud of in his Centre Court debut. He smiled and said: “I just stayed calm in the biggest moments as much as I could. I tried staying relaxed and played attacking tennis, which is what I do. I’m proud of myself for doing that.”

Shapovalov draws inspiration from Murray

Canadian Denis Shapovalov, just 21 and seeded 10th, beat his hero, Great Britain’s beloved Andy Murray, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, in two hours and 17 minutes Friday night to win his Centre Court debut. After the 34-year-old Murray – ranked 118th with metal hip and all – had given his everything in two previous victories earlier in the week, the third-round generational match pretty much belonged to the World No 12 Shapovalov, who fired 13 aces and hit 45 winners. It was Murray’s worst Wimbledon defeat by fewest games won.

Shapovalov outpointed Murray 98-73 by winning 71 percent of his first-serve points, controlling the net and converting six of 11 break points while saving eight of nine break points.

Afterward, Shapovalov told the crowd: “This is a dream come true for me. To play against a legend like Andy on Centre Court … he’s an inspiration to many people, including me. I’m just trying to soak in everything before I leave. It’s truly amazing to be out on this court. I don’t think I could play any better than today.

“I told Andy at the net that he’s my hero. Achievements aside, what he’s been able to do coming back with an injury like this, moving the way he’s moving … in his second round, it was like vintage Andy. Playing him was super intense and I had to give it my all. It’s incredible what he’s done to make it to the third round.”

During his post-match press conference, Murray seemed to be searching for more. He said: “The amazing support here reminds you why you do all the work. But if I’m going to put that much effort in, I want to be performing better than I did here, even though there were some really great moments.

“I got through a week of a slam without getting injured. So, that’s positive. But I can play better and close matches out better. To do that, I need time on the match court and the practice court, and I’ve had neither in the last few months.”

Danger pair Kyrgios and Williams win first match together

The Australian/American mixed doubles super team of Nick Kyrgios and Venus Williams – dubbed by the mercurial Aussie as “a bit of a danger pair” – were entertaining and competitive and won their first-round match Friday evening against Austin Krajicek and Sabrina Santamaria, both from the United States, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

The crowd that filled No. 2 Court definitely got behind Krygios and Williams, who shared plenty of smiles and fist bumps throughout the nearly two-hour match. Between them – and remember that Williams has won 16 Grand Slam doubles titles – they displayed plenty of racquet skills and natural court instincts that could make them a formidable team for plenty of majors to come.

“I just wanted to, not put on a good showing or anything, I really wanted to win,” Kyrgios said afterward in press. “Like, I’ve never really wanted to win a mixed doubles or doubles match that much before. I was really trying hard.”

Friday’s Wimbledon results

Saturday’s Wimbledon order of play

By the numbers

“Quotable …”

”I’m not the first and won’t be the last to say how impressive Sebastian Korda is. The kid looks so composed and has the talent, work ethic and mindset to be a superstar in our sport. Also happens to be a genuinely nice person.”

James Blake, former pro turned ESPN tennis analyst