Sebastian Korda, J.J. Wolf into finals at new ATP events in Gijon, Spain and Florence
The inaugural editions of the two ATP Tour events on the calendar this week each have American finalists. Sebastian Korda and J.J. Wolf will play for trophies in Gijon, Spain and Florence, Italy on Sunday.
The American duo, each unseeded at their respective ATP 250 events, have had weeks to remember. Korda reached his first ATP singles final in 18 months thanks in part to three-set wins over No. 3 seed Roberto Bautista Agut and Andy Murray, while Wolf beat two seeds—No. 4 seed Maxime Cressy and No. 7 seed Alexander Bublik—among four wins to reach his first-ever tour-level singles final.
The pair will next need to topple two No. 1-seeded talents to take home the winner's trophy: Korda will face Andrey Rublev in Gijon, while Wolf's final foe is Felix Auger-Aliassime.
In a 7-6(2), 6-3 semifinal win over France's Arthur Rinderknech, Korda found the service rhythm he'd been seeking against both Bautista Agut and Murray; he came from a set down to knock off the third-seeded Spaniard, and was broken four times in a 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 win against Murray, but saved all three break points he faced against Rinderknech.
Rinderknech came into the semifinal match having saved nine match points in an epic 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(16) quarterfinal triumph over No. 2 seed Pablo Carreño Busta that lasted more than three hours, and Korda proved the fresher of the two as the match wore on. He also served eight aces in victory.
“It was a really good match that came down to a couple of games here and there. I’ve very, very happy and excited for tomorrow,” Korda said. “It’s going to be very difficult, but I’m ready to go.”
Korda lost his only prior meeting with Rublev, but it was a tight one; Rublev beat him in the quarterfinals of the 2021 Miami Open, 7-5, 7-6(7). He's bidding for his second career ATP singles title after having won his first last spring in Parma, Italy.
Wolf's breakthrough season has reached new heights in Florence, and he, like Korda, has responded well in the face of adversity this week.
Before he knocked off Cressy and Bublik, Wolf lost his first set of the tournament, but ultimately rallied for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 Round 1 win against Italian wild card Francesco Maestrelli. Next, he handled Cressy's serve-and-volley style with aplomb in a 6-3, 6-4 triumph, and then came from a set behind again in his 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 quarterfinal win over Bublik.
In the semifinals, Wolf served nine aces and hit 25 winners to topple Swedish qualifier Mikael Ymer, 6-4, 6-4. Both men were compeing for a place in their first ATP singles final.
"I definitely had to keep my nerve and wait for my chance," Wolf said after beating Ymer, as per the ATP website. "He's sneaky aggressive and can turn defense into offense in a second.
"I'm not sure what to expect tomorrow as I haven't been in a final before. I'm just going to keep working on the things I've been working on and not worry about the result."
Wolf and Auger-Aliassime have never played before, and the American bids for his second career Top 20 win against the 13th-ranked Canadian.
The 23-year-old former Ohio State Buckeye began 2022 at No. 174 in the ATP rankings, and he's climbed more than 100 spots as a result of new successes this year. He broke into the Top 100 for the first time on Aug. 1, and will reach a new career-best of No. 56 regardless of the result of Sunday's final.
Korda and Wolf are the ninth and 10th American men to reach ATP singles finals this season. They join three-time finalists Cressy, Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka; two-time finalists Jenson Brooksby and Frances Tiafoe; and one-time finalists Marcos Giron, John Isner and Brandon Nakashima.