Sebastian Korda’s Australian Open campaign may have ended in injury disappointment on Tuesday in Melbourne, but the 22-year-old’s post-match mindset did not reflect that.
“There are a lot of positives,” said Korda, who trailed Karen Khachanov by two sets and a break in their quarter-final clash before retiring with a wrist injury on Rod Laver Arena. “Way more positives than negatives. 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.
“[It was] still a great tournament [for me]. My first quarter-final in a Grand Slam. I’m going to go forward with my head high and keep working.”
Korda had his wrist taped at 3-2 in the second set against Khachanov and struggled to hit his forehand from that point on. He ultimately retired with his opponent leading 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-0, and later revealed it was a recurrence of an issue that he first experienced during his run to the championship match at the Adelaide International 1 in early January.
“I had it a little bit in Adelaide a couple weeks ago, but then it went away,” said the American. “During the matches [in Melbourne], it was completely fine. Then just one kind of mishit return, and it started to bother me a lot of after that.
“I kind of knew what it was right away, right when I hit the return. I kind of felt that spot that I was feeling before. Some forehands I couldn’t even hold the racquet. Volleying was almost impossible for me. So it was a little tough.”
The unfortunate development ended a stellar run for the 22-year-old at Melbourne Park, where he downed Cristian Garin, Yosuke Watanuki, Daniil Medvedev and Hubert Hurkacz to reach his maiden Slam quarter-final.
“I mean, you obviously feel good on the court,” said Korda, when asked if he had held genuine title hopes after his series of impressive wins in Melbourne. “You obviously are playing against really good opponents, you’re beating opponents, and you definitely feel good about yourself. You know, the more you play, the better you feel.
“I just was playing some really good tennis. I know probably nobody really wanted to play me right now. I really believed in myself the whole time.”
Of his four wins this fortnight, the straight-sets victory against Medvedev stands out. Korda dismantled a two-time Australian Open finalist with a near-flawless third-round display of all-court tennis, a statement win for a player who has risen six spots to No. 25 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings as a result of his Melbourne exploits and set himself up for a new career high.
“[I have] a lot of confidence now,” reflected Korda. “I have always been very close to winning the big matches, but now I’m getting through them. I think that’s a huge lesson I have been learning and going forward I’m really proud of myself.
“Going forward, I’m going to keep on trying to do the same thing, keep on mentally being the same way. You know, I think I can do some really big things in the near future.”
Korda was one of three Americans to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne, the first time since 2005 that three American men have reached the last eight at a Grand Slam. One of his countrymen, Tommy Paul or #NextGenATP star Ben Shelton, will go one step further, with the pair set to face off in a quarter-final clash on Wednesday.
Now one of 10 American men in the Top 50 of the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, the 22-year-old Korda acknowledged the camaraderie among the current crop of ATP Tour talent from his homeland. He retains hopes for an American champion in Melbourne, despite his own quarter-final exit.
“Of course [tennis is] individual, but we also have the Davis Cup,” said Korda. “I think with the group that we have, I think we can do really well in the near future. 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.”