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“Throughout this year, I haven’t had one negative thought” – Sebastian Korda, on the power of positive thinking

Sebastian Korda’s smooth, powerful game has “can’t miss” written all over it. Now that he’s learning to overcome adversity on the biggest stages, it may be his time to shine.

Sebastian Korda, Australian Open 2023 Sebastian Korda, Australian Open 2023 – © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

2022 was a bit of a speed bump year for heralded American Sebastian Korda. Though he is considered by most to have an extremely bright future, there were alarming signs of vulnerability under pressure.

At Indian Wells, he held a double-break lead in the final set against Rafael Nadal and melted down under pressure.

“Maybe nerves got a little bit to me,” Korda said at the time. “He stopped missing a little bit more. Came closer to the line. And I made some easy mistakes, and he took advantage of that.”

Nadal was happy to accept the generosity.

“Throughout this whole year, I haven’t had one negative thought, whether it’s waiting for transportation to go to the courts, whether it’s eating lunch, whether it’s doing anything.”

— Sebastian Korda

“Well, is obvious he make some more mistakes. That’s true, no?” he said.

Those nerves were on display again in the Adelaide final when Korda lost the script at the end of the first set against Novak Dokovic. At times it was painful to watch, but he did manage to win the set – and nearly the match – and earned a match point in the second set with Djokovic serving at 5-6, 30-40.

Djokovic saved the championship point and went on to spectacularly take the title, but the loss has not dampened Korda’s spirits.

“I haven’t had one negative thought”

The 22-year-old American knows what he is capable of and he refuses to let any kinds of doubts get in his way.

“Throughout this whole year, I haven’t had one negative thought, whether it’s waiting for transportation to go to the courts, whether it’s eating lunch, whether it’s doing anything,” he said after taking out Daniil Medvedev in his best ever win by ranking at a Grand Slam.

“That’s one of the biggest things is kind of just having a new motto of, like, positive energy is more positive than negative energy. As soon as you get something negative, it can take you the opposite direction.”

The positivity came through again on Sunday as Korda backed up his win over Medvedev with a clutch victory over Hubert Hurkacz in a deciding 10-point tiebreak. There were moments of trouble for Korda, who played four terribly shaky points from 7-3 up in the tiebreak. But he was unfazed, and finished off the match in sparkling form, winning the last three points to earn a spot in a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time.

“Anything that happens, just thinking in the most positive possible way, just going forward,” he said after defeating Medvedev, and clearly he used that mantra in his win over Hurkacz.

Working through rough patches is par for the course on tour, and mental and psychological development is as important as having the right strokes and athleticism.

It’s all a part of the process for Korda. His game is world-class and has top-10 and future Grand Slam champion written all over it. Now that his mental game is developing and he’s gaining comfort wiggling his way out of difficult situations on the biggest stages, his results may soon be in sync with his potential.

“I think I’m really good at just kind of moving forward, learning from my mistakes, what I’ve done in the past, then using them in matches like this,” he told reporters after his win over Hurkacz.

“I think I’ve had a tough match with Rafa, serving for it a couple times. Match point with Djokovic. I think that really helped me, especially in the last match with Medvedev, closing out that tiebreaker. Then today as well. I think all those little moments that I’ve gone through, kind of learning from them, staying patient, staying positive, going through the process I think have really helped me going forward.”

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