Korda making his own name

  • Linda Pearce
  • Luke Hemer

On the 20th anniversary of Petr Korda’s Australian Open triumph, son Sebastian is back at Melbourne Park carrying on the family name. The seventh seed, who has reached the third round of the boys’ singles, knows all about the trademark scissor kick, too, incidentally. Did it once in a tournament. Nailed it. “Amazing,’’ he laughs.

Mum is former tennis pro Regina Rajchrtova, and sisters Jessica and Nelly are world-ranked golfers, the former having won the 2012 Australian Open and now competing on the LPGA Tour. While Sebastian played ice hockey as a youngster, it was after a visit to watch Czech Radek Stepanek – then coached by his Dad – play at the US Open that the then 10-year-old decided he was playing the wrong game.

Yet it has taken until the Florida-born-and-raised Korda’s final year of under-age tennis for him to make it to Australia, having chosen to stay at home and play some Futures events in 2017 instead. Overseeing things here is USTA coach, Dean Goldfine, although his father is his main coach and the one who pulls the strings.

“It’s an awesome experience, definitely, being my first time in Australia and then coming here and seeing my Dad’s poster on the wall when he won it. It’s pretty cool,’’ said the 17-year-old, whose introductory Melbourne Park tour, including the photo-studded hallways, was led by Stepanek and IMG agent Patricio Apey.

He resembles his father in both angular face and lean-limbed body, but is two centimetres taller, and a right-hander, without the 90s hairstyle, and with a two-fisted backhand he favours, plus an attacking all-court game. “I try to take the ball pretty aggressive and come into the net a lot, I try doing anything I can.’’

A young man of Czech parents who has lived his entire life in the US, Korda is and sounds American, and choices were many. Why not follow his sisters by whacking around a small, dimpled, white ball? “I play a lot of golf, but, I don’t know, it’s just a little bit too boring me for, a little bit too slow. I like to run and be active,’’ he laughs.

“I played ice hockey until I was 10 years old and then I switched over to tennis after watching Radek. We never really talk about it, but he’s definitely one of my role models and my inspiration to play tennis.’’

If Stepanek, now helping to coach Novak Djokovic, remained something of a serve-volleying throwback until his recent retirement, Tuesday’s was also a retro contest of sorts. Young Korda’s second-round opponent was an Andreev (Adrian, of Bulgaria, not a known relative of Russia’s Igor), and the sound from a nearby court kept calling “Game, Hewitt” (American Dalayna, in the girls’ singles on court 22), not brave Aussie Lleyton.

Rewinding to that January Sunday in 1998, though, Petr Korda has not suggested his son watch the replay of the final (still played in the afternoon, then, crazily enough) against Marcelo Rios, a dozen years before he was born. The score was 6-2 6-2 6-2, and the winner’s quirky leaping-about-the-place joy famous – as Sebastian knows so well.

“He’s never told me to watch it, but I watch maybe like once a month,’’ smiles Korda junior. “Whenever I can. It’s awesome. I love his celebrations.’’

Does he copy the scissor-jump? Has he? “Yeah, I can do it. I don’t choose to do it, but I can do it. I did it once in Mexico, after I won the semis, but that’s about it.’’