Korda, Kenin, Collins
into French Open Round of 16
Arthur Kapetanakis | October 3, 2020
Sebastian Korda entered the 2020 French Open without an ATP win in his young professional career. The Roland Garros main-draw debutant has now stolen the Team USA headlines in Paris by advancing to the Round of 16.
The 20-year-old qualifier will have the chance to make the ultimate French Open headline on Sunday, with an opportunity to knock out 12-time champion Rafael Nadal on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
Through six matches on the red clay, Korda has won 15 sets and dropped just two. His main-draw progress has included wins over Andreas Seppi (Round 1), No. 21 seed John Isner (Round 2) and Pedro Martinez Portero (Round 3). His first two matches went four sets, with a 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win over Isner giving him first Top-25 victory.
Next up is a dream matchup against Nadal, who has stormed through in typically dominant fashion.ADVERTISEMENT
“I'm praying that he wins,” Korda said after his third-round win, before the Spaniard has booked his Round-of-16 spot. “He's my biggest idol. He's one of the reasons I play tennis. Just watching him play, unbelievable competitor. Just from him I have the never-give-up mentality. Whenever I'm on court, I try to be like him.
“I'll be the happiest person on planet earth if I do get to play him,” added Korda, who revealed that he named his cat Rafa, after Nadal, as a kid.
Following the pandemic suspension, Korda qualified for the Western & Southern Open before losing in three sets in Round 1, then went four sets with eventual quarterfinalist Denis Shapovalov at the US Open. The French Open is his first clay-court event since the restart.
The world No. 213 credits confidence and fitness for his recent success: “Just the self-belief that I have in myself; I know that I won't have to worry about my body giving up on me because I know I put in the hard work,” he said following his third-round win. “The only thing I have to do is just play better than my opponent, win the final point after that. That's the only thing I have to worry about.”
The son of 1998 Australian Open champ Petr Korda, Sebastian won the 2018 Aussie Open boys’ singles title, which lifted him to junior world No. 1. A native of Bradenton, Florida, Korda made his Grand Slam main-draw debut as a wild card at the 2020 US Open.
Korda comes from a tennis family, with his mother, the former Regina Rajchrtova, also a former pro. His two sisters, Jessica (27) and Nelly (22) have both won tournaments on the LPGA Tour. Korda himself was more of a hockey player as a kid, until he switched his focus to tennis around age 10 after watching Radek Stepanek (who was coached by his father) play Novak Djokovic in a night match at the 2009 US Open. Petr now coaches his son, with Sebastian saying his “goal in life” is to win two majors, to better his dad’s mark.
Sofia Kenin, who joins Korda in the French Open Round of 16, is also coached by her father, Alex Kenin. Alex can often be found on the sidelines, living and dying with each point his daughter plays.
“He’s obviously worried when I’m playing… he obviously cares, you can see that,” Kenin said following a comeback, three-set victory over Ana Bogdan in Round 2. “He's there every point. He obviously knows it's not easy. I like to have a little bit of a dramatic entrance and a dramatic finish.
“That's what he said just a few minutes ago, like, ‘You don't like to win 5-1, 40-love? You like to make it a little bit interesting.’”
After a pair of dramatic three-setters, Kenin made it easier viewing for her father with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Irina Bara on Saturday.
“I kind of was a little bit tired of those dramatic matches,” Kenin said after that win.
She will now face France’s Fiona Ferro in the Round of 16, an opponent she defeated more than three years ago in their only previous WTA meeting. Kenin previewed the matchup in her post-match presser.
“She's obviously a good player, clay-court player, she's got a big forehand, big serve, she's got great touch. She had a really good win a few days ago since Rybakina and of course she's using the crowd to help her.”
Kenin has now reached the last 16 at each of the three Grand Slams played in 2020, after backing up her Australian Open title run with a career-best fourth-round showing at the US Open.
“I feel like I should get deep in a tournament,” Kenin said of that consistency. “I'm a bit hard on myself. It's a little bit different mindset now coming into the Slams [after winning in Australia].
Also still standing in the women’s singles draw is Danielle Collins, herself a 2019 semifinalist at the Aussie Open. The 26-year-old has notched her first post-suspension victories with a trio of French Open wins, defeating Monica Niculescu, Clara Tauson and 2016 champion Garbiñe Muguruza. Her rain-delayed Round 3 match against Muguruza was moved from Court Suzanne-Lenglen into the roofed Chatrier late on Saturday. Closing the day's play under the lights, Collins scored a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 win, coming back from an 0-3 hole in the third to reach the last 16 at a Slam for the second time in her career.
Amanda Anisimova also reached Round 3, but the 2019 semifinalist lost to former champ Simona Halep in a reversal of their quarterfinal result one year ago on the Paris clay.
On the men’s side, eight Americans advanced to Round 2—the most since 1996, when Team USA sent nine men into the second round. Tennys Sandgren, Marcos Giron, Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul, Jack Sock, Korda, Isner and Mackenzie McDonald all notched first-round wins, with No. 27 seed Fritz advancing to Round 3 for his best career French Open result.
In men's doubles action, Rajeev Ram is through to quarterfinals, alongside British partner Joe Salisbury, while the all-American men’s duo of Tommy Paul and Nicholas Monroe are into Round 3 after upsetting No. 4 seeds Marcelo Melo and Lukas Kubot.
Three all-U.S. women’s teams are also through to Round 3: Sofia Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Coco Gauff and Caty McNally, and Asia Muhammad and Jessica Pegula. They are joined by Hayley Carter (w/ Luisa Stefani), Desirae Krawczyk (w/ Alexa Guatachi) and Nicole Melicahr (w/ Iga Swiatek).
The French Open junior singles competitions begin on Sunday, while wheelchair play will begin later in Week 2.