PARIS (Reuters) – Sebastian Korda had never won a Tour-level match coming into this year’s French Open but on Friday the 20-year-old American extended his amazing run to book a last-16 clash against his idol Rafa Nadal.
His impressive 6-4 6-3 6-1 victory over fellow qualifier Pedro Martinez of Spain also opened another chapter for this celebrated sporting family.
He is the son of 1992 French Open runner-up Petr and brother to LPGA golfers Nelly and Jessica while his mother Regina was also a tennis professional.
Now, he is writing his own script, although a clash with claycourt king Nadal, the 12-time champion, on Court Philippe Chatrier on Sunday was probably beyond his imagination.
“Growing up, I named my cat Rafa after him. That says a lot about how much I love the guy,” Korda told reporters while Nadal was on court against Italian Stefano Travaglia.
“I’m praying that he wins. I mean, he’s my biggest idol. He’s one of the reasons I play tennis. Just watching him play, unbelievable competitor. Just from him I have the never-give-up mentality. Whenever I’m on court, I try to be like him.
“I’ll be the happiest person on planet earth if I do get to play him. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Nelly, 22, came close to winning her first major at the ANA Inspiration tournament last month and Korda said he was up until the early hours in Prague watching on television.
“She’s my best friend. She’s incredibly supportive. She’s having a really good year,” he told reporters. “I think my heart rate at the time was 87 or something like that. I have a picture from it. I was just completely stressed out.”
The family will no doubt be tuning in on Sunday when Korda walks out to face 19-time Grand Slam champion Nadal.
While it will be a massive step in class, he will bring some firepower, having crunched down 48 winners against Martinez on Friday, backing up his previous round win over fellow American John Isner, the 21st seed.
After Taylor Fritz’s loss on Friday, Korda is the only American left in the men’s singles on what is only his second main draw appearance in a Grand Slam.
Korda’s first sporting passion was ice hockey but he switched to tennis when he was 11. He has big ambitions, too, saying his target is to win one more Slam than his dad, the 1996 Australian Open champion.
“My goal in life is to win two Grand Slams so I have one more than he has. That’s what I’m going for,” he said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)