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Like father, like son: Korda wins AO

  • Michael Beattie
  • Luke Hemer

'Korda wins Australian Open' - a headline written for the third time, for a third member of the clan.

Five days shy of the 20th anniversary of his father Petr Korda’s Australian Open triumph, 17-year-old Sebastian Korda gave him a birthday present to remember by claiming the boys’ title at Melbourne Park.

Liang clinches girls' title
The American No.7 seed overcame Chinese Taipei’s Chun Hsin Tseng 7-6(6) 6-4 in a tight, compelling contest that hinged on a handful of points, capping the victory with his father’s trademark scissor-kick celebration before the trophy ceremony.

“It's definitely special, including being here in Australia – I mean, my sister won her first title here as well,” said Korda, whose elder sister Jessica claimed the Australian Open golf title as an 18-year-old in 2012. “My dad won his only Grand Slam title here, so it's very special.

“The main goal here, was try to get this tournament for my dad on his 50th birthday. My mom's birthday is on the 5th of February, so it's special as well.”

Korda Snr needed just 85 minutes to dispatch Marcelo Rios in the 1998 men’s final on the then-green Rod Laver Arena, but son Sebastian was pushed throughout the 91-minute title match as Tseng’s tidy all-court game proved the perfect foil for the American’s heavy-hitting baseline play.
The 193cm American found himself on the back foot early on, dropping serve to love as Tseng came out on top after four lengthy exchanges in the opening game. But the 16-year-old’s advantage lasted just three games before Korda broke back to level up at 2-2.
With temperatures hovering around the 30°C mark and a clear blue sky over Melbourne Park, play was briefly interrupted by a ballkid who fell faint and was helped from the court. Korda, having checked on the youngster’s wellbeing, held for 3-2 and had two points to break for a 5-3 lead, only for Tseng to produce some fine defensive play to get out of trouble.

The compact No.6 seed had the speed and all-court game to counter Korda’s easy power, particularly off the backhand wing. He fashioned two break point opportunities for himself at 5-5, prompting Korda to switch to rally mode, patiently awaiting errors to escape before seeing a set point come and go at 6-5 when his return sailed long.
Tseng produced some of his best tennis of the contest early in the tiebreak, firing a stunning inside-out forehand winner to open up a 3-0 lead, and a loose forehand from Korda that sailed long helped him to 5-2. But a pin-point forehand winner down the line saw the American level up at 5-5, and the set was his when Tseng sent a backhand into the tramlines before firing a forehand long.

Cheng rallied to make a bright start to the second, a deft drop-shot helping him to a 2-0 lead, but Korda broke back immediately and roared with delight as he hammered a forehand winner on the run to break once more for a 3-2 lead.
Neither player could relax on serve, Tseng scampering to reach 15-30 in the eighth game with a stunning curling forehand that Korda could only dolly back for the 16-year-old to guide past him into the open court. But having consolidated for 5-3 Korda surged to the finish line, firing his 34th winner of the match to bring up match point before Tseng flashed a short forehand wide.

Petr Korda was back in Brandeton, Florida, as his son lifted the Perpetual Trophy, but Sebastian had a message waiting on his phone once his press duties were complete.

“Most parents push their kids away,” Korda said, admitting he found golf too boring as a kid – despite a handicap of two – and played ice hockey before focusing on tennis from the age of 10. “I really fell in love with the sport. I wouldn't take no for an answer to play it.

“My dad, of course, tried to push me away a little bit. He would always take me to tournaments with Radek Stepanek. I fell in love with it. Ever since he's supported me as much as he can. He's my main coach. He's the main one I play with when I'm back home at IMG. I play with all the other guys there, but usually when I practice, it's usually just him.

“I've seen his match on YouTube a lot,” he added with a smile. “I watch it at least maybe once a month – a little bit of motivation.”

Now he has his own highlight reel – same court, different generation.