Sebastian Korda is the youngest U.S. man to reach a French Open fourth round since Michael Chang in 1991. Next year (or in 2024), the Korda family could achieve something unprecedented at the Olympics.
Korda, 20, beat a fellow main-draw qualifier, Spaniard Pedro Martinez, 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 at Roland Garros on Friday. His run in Paris should end on Sunday, given Rafael Nadal is his next opponent in the round of 16.
Regardless, it will be a special day.
“He’s my biggest idol,” Korda said. “I named my cat after him.”
Nadal was told this.
“Happy to hear that,” the Spaniard said. “That means that I have been on the TV for such a long time.”
Like Nadal, the Korda name, first made famous by Czech father and 1998 Australian Open champion Petr, won’t be leaving the sports lexicon any time soon.
Older sisters Nelly, 22, and Jessica, 27, are Nos. 2 and 22 in world golf rankings. At least one of them appears destined for the Tokyo Olympics next year, given a nation can send four golfers per gender to the Games if ranked in the top 15.
Korda said that Nelly is his best friend. He was up past midnight in Prague last month, stressing out as he watched her lose in a playoff in a bid to win her first major, the ANA Inspiration in California.
“They’d be both unbelievable tennis players,” said Korda, who beat both sisters in his one and only golf tournament around age 11 and said he could be a two or three handicap. “I golfed a lot my whole life. My dad is a club champion where we live. So, yeah, we’re all pretty good golfers.”
If he can join either sister in Tokyo, they would become the first U.S. brother and sister to compete in the same Olympics in different sports, according to Olympic historian Bill Mallon of the OlyMADMen and Olympedia.org.
Others competed in the same sport, such as ice dancers Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani in 2014 and 2018.
Others participated in different sports at different Olympics, like LeLei Fonoimoana, a silver medalist swimmer in 1976, and Eric Fonoimoana, a gold medalist in beach volleyball in 2000.
Roger Young and Sheila Young competed in different sports at the Olympics in 1972, though Roger cycled in the Summer Games and Sheila speed skated at the Winter Games.
Petr never competed at the Olympics.
“My goal in life is to win two Grand Slams,” Korda said, “so I have one more than he has.”
When Korda switched from ice hockey to tennis about a decade ago, inspired by watching Czech Radek Stepanek play at the U.S. Open, his dad was traveling with and caddying for Jessica.
So he learned tennis from his mom. Regina Rajchrtova played at the 1988 Seoul Olympics for Czechoslovakia, a year before making a clay-court final in Paris in the autumn — the Open Clarins.
“The way my strokes are and everything is because she’s the one that kind of tuned it that way,” Korda said. “We spent a lot of time on court together when I was a kid. Probably more than with my dad.”
Korda’s potential path to the Olympics is a little more complicated than for his sisters. Normally, his 180 ranking points gained this week, 10 months before the Games, would be a boost in Olympic qualifying.
But, since Olympic tennis qualifying uses world rankings immediately after the 2021 French Open, the 2020 French Open results will not factor into who goes to Tokyo.
And Korda is just breaking into the top level of senior tennis, so he has few other significant, point-accumulating results.
He would need a very strong start to 2021 to break into the mix, not out of the question given his success in his second Grand Slam main draw this week.
The U.S. can send four male singles players to the Olympics, assuming they are among the 64 worldwide qualifiers.
Veterans John Isner and Sam Querrey indicated in January they were at least leaning toward skipping the Tokyo Games, opening opportunities for younger U.S. players. That was before the coronavirus pandemic forced the Olympic postponement to 2021.
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!Follow @nzaccardi