Sebastian Korda is on a French Open run. Is Olympic history in his family’s future?

Sebastian Korda
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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.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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Germany denied gold-medal sweep of world luge championships races

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Austrian Jonas Müller denied Germany’s bid to sweep all eight singles and doubles races at the world luge championships.

Müller, a 25-year-old who was not on Austria’s Olympic team, won the men’s event by .104 of a second over German Max Langenhan at worlds in Oberhof, Germany, combining times from two runs. Another Austrian, 2018 Olympic champion David Gleirscher, earned bronze.

Germany won the first seven of eight singles and doubles races on Friday and Saturday, including sprint events that aren’t on the Olympic program. Its last gold-medal sweep at worlds was in 2013, when there were four events on the program. Germany also swept the Olympic golds in 2014 and 2022.

Müller, the 2020 World silver medalist who dropped out of Austria’s top three men last season, said his sled broke in a crash at a World Cup two weeks ago in Sigulda, Latvia.

“I flew home the next day and unpacked the old sled again,” he said, according to the International Luge Federation. “As you can see, the old sled doesn’t seem so bad.”

While Germany has dominated women’s and doubles events, this marked the third consecutive worlds with a non-German men’s winner, its longest drought since the mid-1990s.

Johannes Ludwig retired after winning last year’s Olympics. Felix Loch, a two-time Olympic champion and record six-time world champion, placed fourth on Sunday.

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Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, ties Rafael Nadal for most men’s Slam titles

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic found this trip to Australia far less complicated, and far more successful, than that of a year ago.

Unable to enter his best event in 2022 after being deported from the country because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19, Djokovic accomplished all he could have wanted in his return: He resumed his winning ways at Melbourne Park and made it back to the top of tennis.

Only briefly challenged in the final on Sunday night, Djokovic was simply better at the most crucial moments and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) for a record-extending 10th Australian Open championship and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title overall. As a bonus, Djokovic will vault from No. 5 to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a spot he already has held for more weeks than any other man.

“He’s the greatest that has ever held a tennis racket,” Tsitsipas said.

Djokovic stretched his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28 matches, the longest run at the tournament for a man in the Open era, which dates to 1968. He adds trophy No. 10 there to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open — where he also was absent last year because of no coronavirus shots — and two at the French Open, to match rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man in tennis history.

Margaret Court, with 24, Serena Williams, with 23, and Steffi Graf, with 22, have the most among women.

This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, allowing the 35-year-old from Serbia to break a tie with Nadal for the fourth-most. Jimmy Connors holds that mark, at 109.

Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece’s other one also ended in a loss to Djokovic, at the 2021 French Open.

He was superior throughout against Tsitsipas, but especially so in the two tiebreakers. He took a 4-1 lead in the first and after it was 4-all, pulled off three points in a row. He led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker and, when it finished, he pointed to his temple then climbed into the stands, pumped his fist and jumped with his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, and other members of the entourage, and collapsed, crying.

Little doubt this is of no solace to Tsitsipas, but there is no shame in failing to defeat Djokovic in Melbourne. Challenging his dominion on those blue hard courts is every bit the monumental task that taking on Nadal on the red clay at Roland Garros is.

Perhaps surprisingly, Tsitsipas was willing to engage in the kind of leg-wearying, lung-searing back-and-forths upon which Djokovic has built his superlative career. How did that work out? Of points lasting at least five strokes, Djokovic won 43, Tsitsipas 30,

Then again, on those rare occasions that Tsitsipas did charge the net, he likely regretted the choice, because Djokovic often conjured up a passing shot that was too tough to handle.

One of Djokovic’s many other strengths is his return game, and he accumulated three break points within 17 minutes, converting the last for a quick 3-1 lead when Tsitsipas double-faulted.

The trophy for which they were playing was displayed on a pedestal near a corner of the court, and both men would get within reach of it whenever wandering over to towel off between points at that end.

So close, yes, but for Tsitsipas, never truly close enough.

It’s not as though Tsitsipas played all that poorly, other than a rash of early miscues that seemed to be more a product of tension than anything.

It’s that Djokovic was, put simply, too good. Too accurate with his strokes — making merely 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his foe — and anticipation. Too speedy and flexible chasing shots (other than on one second-set point, when, running to his left, Djokovic took a tumble). Too dangerous with his returns and damaging enough with his serves.

Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes some more, until it’s the opponent who is something less than perfect on one shot, either missing or providing an opening to pounce.

There has been more than forehands and backhands on Djokovic’s mind over the past two weeks.

There was the not-so-small matter of last year’s legal saga — he has alternately acknowledged the whole thing served as a form of motivation but also said the other day, “I’m over it” — and curiosity about the sort of reception he would get.

He heard a ton of loud support, but also dealt with some persistent heckling while competing, including applause after the faults Sunday.

There was the sore left hamstring that has been heavily bandaged for every match — until the final, that is, when only a single piece of beige athletic tape was visible — and had worried him at the beginning of Week 1, prompting him to turn to what he said was “a lot” of pain-killing pills and other treatments he didn’t detail.

And then there was the more complicated matter of his father, Srdjan, being filmed with a group of people with Russian flags — one with an image of Vladimir Putin — after Djokovic’s quarterfinal victory. The tournament banned spectators from bringing in flags of Russia or Belarus, saying they would cause disruption because of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Both Djokovic and his father said it was a misunderstanding, based on Srdjan thinking he was with a group of Serbian fans.

Because of that episode, Srdjan Djokovic did not attend his son’s semifinal victory over Tommy Paul on Friday, and was not seen in the Djokovic guest box on Sunday.

No matter any of it, Djokovic managed to excel as he so often does, winning 17 sets in a row after ceding one in the second round last week.

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