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Rising star Korda says Agassi has helped him mentally

The 20-year-old American praised the influence of former world No 1 Andre Agassi after reaching his first Masters 1000 quarter-final in Miami

Sebastian Korda Miami Sebastian Korda Miami AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Sebastian Korda has been racking up the firsts in 2021, from reaching his first ATP Tour final in Delray Beach to knocking off his first top-20 scalp in Fabio Fognini at the Miami Open.

The 20-year-old American took another step up on Tuesday night when he beat world No 9 Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 to record his first win over a top-10 player and reach the quarter-finals of a Masters 1000 event for the first time in his young career.

As the son of former Australian Open champion Petr Korda and Regina Rajchrtova, a top-30 player on the WTA Tour, Korda already has the family genes to be a success, not to mention his two golfing sisters, Nelly Korda (world No 4) and Jessica Korda (No 18). But the youngster, already ranked 64 and one win away from the top 50 himself, also has a not-so-secret weapon in his corner; Andre Agassi.

“We have a really special relationship together,” Korda told reporters in Miami on Tuesday. “We built that over November-December. We spent a couple of weeks together and we just hung out and talked. He’s a special person to me. He really helps my game, especially mentally and seeing the court and certain situations when I showed what I shouldn’t be doing. He’s a great guy. He’s a really positive person around me, and I love positivity.”

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Korda told Tennis Majors in an interview in February that his father, Petr, had arranged the time with former world No 1s Agassi and Steffi Graf at their home in Las Vegas over winter. Agassi has become a mentor for Korda and offered his advice before the American went out to play Schwartzman.

“I sat down with my whole team, my dad, my coach Dean (Goldfine), with Andre, and we just kind of sat down and kind of decided what the play was, what I’m gonna stick with, how the match is going to play out,” he said. “I was going to think that I was going to be the one setting the pace and dictating, and then it was just all about committing to myself and then staying calm. Those were probably the biggest things for me. I think I executed really well on the big points, and I’m super happy with how it finished.”

Dealing with disappointment

Against world No 9 Schwarztman, Korda not only showed off his weapons – his strong serve and piercing groundstrokes – but also his ability to stay calm and deal with disappointment, especially when he couldn’t serve out for victory at 5-4 in the deciding set, missing a match point as the Argentinian extended the match.

He quickly regrouped, though, and after breaking in the following game, he made no mistake second time around as he closed out the biggest win of his career to date.

“I played an incredible match today,” he said. “I think mentally I was great out there. I stayed calm. Even when in the tight situations I believed in myself and I went for it. I’m super proud of that. Just a lot of joy inside. All the hard work that I have done with my team is paying off.

“Mentally, I’m super happy with how I handled it, especially serving for it the first time and having a match point and then him just playing a good couple of points there. Then somehow I found a way to break him and then served it out. So I think mentally that’s probably the biggest thing for me today.”

Sebastian Korda

Next up for Korda will be a red-hot Andrey Rublev, who was too strong for former US Open champion Marin Cilic, running out a 6-4, 6-4 winner.

“I think it will be a lot of fun,” Korda said. “We are both big hitters, and he’s having a great season and a great whole year pretty much. He’s probably the hottest player on tour right now, and it’s going to be another cool opportunity for me and another cool experience to play such a player like him.”

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