Sebastian Korda's Australian Open didn't end the way he wanted, but the towering American with the varied game leaves Melbourne with newfound confidence.
Korda was forced to retire with a right wrist injury trailing 7-6(5) 6-3 3-0 against Karen Khachanov in his maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal under the roof on Tuesday at Rod Laver Arena.
MORE: All the scores from Day 9 at AO 2023
He experienced the same issue "a little bit" at the Adelaide International in early January before it thankfully disappeared.
But after mishitting a forehand return in the second set against Khachanov – who edged Korda in a five-set thriller at Wimbledon in 2021 – the discomfort resurfaced.
"I don't know what it really is," Korda told reporters. "I had it in Adelaide and then it went away completely. Now it just came back out of nowhere.
"Some forehands I couldn't even hold the racquet. Volleying was almost impossible for me. So it was a little tough.
"See a doctor right after this and figure out more."
Korda and tennis fans are hoping he avoids an extended layoff.
"Today was tough, but hopefully it's nothing serious and I can take care of it so I don't have it in the future," he said.
"Still a great tournament. My first quarterfinal in a Grand Slam. I'm going to go forward with my head high and keep working. There is a lot of positives."
Korda can wallop serves and rip groundstrokes from the baseline – befitting of someone holding a 196cm frame – yet also possesses fine touch.
The many components of his game thrived in Adelaide as he beat the likes of Andy Murray, Jannik Sinner and Roberto Bautista Agut, then held a match point against 21-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic in a three-hour final.
Momentum in hand, Korda upset two-time Australian Open finalist Daniil Medvedev in the third round at AO 23 and topped former Wimbledon semifinalist Hubert Hurkacz in a fifth-set tiebreak.
MORE: AO 2023 men's singles draw
Those victories were crucial, he said, after the tough loss to Djokovic and one to his idol Rafael Nadal last year in Indian Wells, when he led 5-2 in the third set.
"A lot of confidence now. I have always been very close to winning the big matches, but now I'm getting through them," said the 22-year-old. "I think that's a huge lesson I have been learning.
"Going forward, I'm going to keep on trying to do the same thing, keep on mentally being the same way. I think I can do some really big things in the near future."
Few would deny that.
Korda has often joked about being the worst ranked player in his family – dad Petr won the Australian Open, mum Regina got to 26 and sisters Nelly and Jessica currently reside in the top 20 in the world golf rankings – but that is set to change next Monday.
His live ranking of 25 would see the Australian Open 2018 junior winner pip mum.
Ten Americans are expected to feature in the top 50 in the rankings overall, with two – Tommy Paul and 20-year-old Ben Shelton – meeting on Wednesday at AO 23 for a spot in the semifinals.
"I think we can do really well in the near future," said Korda. "We are all really good friends. I'm good friends with Tommy and starting to become good friends with Ben as well.
"I wish them all the best. They're going to have a great match, and hopefully they can go all the way."