26 Jan 2018

Korda following in dad's footsteps

News Article

By Sandra Harwitt

Photo: Martin SidorjakSebastian Korda (USA)

If fate truly plays a role in the outcome of events, then it seems as if it was ordained that seventh-seeded Sebastian Korda would reach the Australian Open junior boys’ final.

In fact, many would think that the stars should align for the 17-year-old American to nab the title after his 75 57 64 semifinal win over second-seeded Marko Miladinovic of Serbia.

The reason why Korda winning would make for a cool story? He appears to be channeling his father's good fortune at the Australian Open.

It was exactly 20-years-ago that his dad, Petr, as the sixth-seed in the main draw, hoisted the Australian Open trophy with a win over ninth seed Marcelo Rios on Rod Laver Arena.

“For sure, it’s a special feeling,” said Korda, who for the first-time here started doing his fathers’ trademark winning scissor-kick in the last two matches.

“It was his birthday a few days ago - the big-50. I told him I would get him something for his birthday so, hopefully, this (the trophy) will be a good present.”

As for stealing dad’s scissor-kick, he’s planning on sticking with that move and not coming up with his own, saying, “That’s the Korda way.”

The elder Korda is young Sebastian’s main coach, but is not on this trip to Australia. Instead, he’s here with the help of a coach from IMG Academy where he trains, and a USTA coach as well.

Korda, who posted 48 winners and 45 unforced errors in the 2-hour, 6-minute match, dropped his serve only once in the match. It happened when serving at 5-6, 30-40 in the second set, and resulted in the semifinal going into a decisive third set.

“It feels good,” Korda said. “Any victory is a good victory. I think we played really good tennis for all three sets.”

Korda, who reached the round-of-16 at Roland Garros, and the second round at Wimbledon, believes his game has improved heading into 2018.

“I had a really good off-season,” he said. “I’ve been playing a lot more pro tournaments and that’s been helping. I have a lot more experience than before. I’m mentally tougher.”

Korda will play sixth-seeded Tseng Chun Hsin of Taipei in the final, who ended Briton’s Aidan McHugh’s hope of reaching the final in a 63 57 64 decision. McHugh was leading 4-2 in the second set when rain stalled their match. The match was eventually moved to indoor courts.

Prior to this Australian Open, 16-year-old Clara Burel of France had only played one Grand Slam junior tournament at Roland Garros last year.

Burel didn’t fare particularly well on his Grand Slam debut, losing in the first round of singles, and the second round of the doubles.

Now she’s travelled half-way around the world to play in her second Grand Slam event.

On Friday, she journeyed to the Australian Open girls’ singles final by posting a 26 61 60 upset of top-seeded Wang Xin Yu of China.

“I can’t describe - I’m so happy, so proud of me, and so happy,” said Burel, of her achievement. “I think the difference in me now (from Roland Garros) is in the head. I am stronger.”

While Wang powers the ball on court, it often found her playing risky, not consistent tennis.

Wang had difficulty controlling her game against Burel, who took advantage of six of nine break point opportunities offered. Wang made 41 unforced errors, nearly double the amount Burel had at 24.

Burel learned to play tennis at age six at school. Her parents don’t play, nor do her two older sisters.

There’s only been one French girl to win the Australian Open junior girls’ title in the past and that was Virginie Razzano in 1999. Burel, a native of Breton, wasn’t even born when that happened, arriving in the world just over two-years later.

“For sure,” she said, of wanting to be the second French girl to win the title here.

Burel will play second-seeded Liang En Shuo of Taipei in the final. Liang overcame a feisty Elisabetta Cocciaretto of Italy 46 63 76 (5) in the other girls’ semifinal.