Sebastian Korda earned the biggest win of his career Sunday when he battled past 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz in five gripping sets to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals.
The 29th seed advanced to the last eight at a Grand Slam for the first time with a back-and-forth 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(10-7) victory against the Polish star. Korda will play Karen Khachanov for a place in the semi-finals.
“Awesome. I couldn’t have done it without you guys. You guys pushed me through,” Korda told the crowd. “I wasn’t feeling too much energy towards the fourth and the fifth, but you guys really picked me up and without you guys I don’t think it would have been possible today, so thank you!”
The American claimed an upset in the third round when he ousted back-to-back Australian Open finalist Daniil Medvedev in a nearly flawless straight-sets display. He backed up that triumph with a gritty performance inside Rod Laver Arena against the the 2021 Wimbledon semi-finalist.
“It was difficult but I’m very happy with the way I kind of just stayed down, kept going through it,” he said.
Sebastian Korda’s team, including coach Radek Stepanek, celebrate his victory. Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Korda is just the third American to reach the quarter-finals at the season’s first Grand Slam since Andy Roddick last accomplished the feat in 2010. Tennys Sandgren (twice) and Frances Tiafoe have also reached the last eight since.
After four mostly straightforward sets, the decider was full of drama, with a maiden berth in the Australian Open quarter-finals on the line for both men. The tension was clear in Korda’s player box where Radek Stepanek, who is Korda’s coach and like an older brother to him, was out of his seat after nearly every point in the fifth set. The Czech was constantly encouraging his charge and at points in the match he tried to involve the fans, too.
Hurkacz earned two break points at 5-5. If the Pole converted, he would have served for his place in the quarter-finals. But Korda played with nerves of steel to escape trouble.
In the deciding tie-break, there were momentum swings galore. Korda during one stretch won six consecutive points only to watch his lead slip away. But he never panicked, closing out his victory with a perfect backhand passing shot up the line.
“[I] had a little superstition with the towel. The towel got me through it,” Korda said, eliciting laughter from the crowd. “Every time I went to the towel I won the point, so I just kept going to it.”
Korda is known for his aggressive play, but interestingly Hurkacz won rallies of 0-4 shots by a 93-84 margin. In points longer than four shots, the American claimed a 62-51 edge. Both men broke serve three times.
Korda will next try to earn his third consecutive ATP Head2Head win against Khachanov (Korda leads series 2-1). Their most memorable clash came at Wimbledon in 2021, when Khachanov triumphed 10-8 in the fifth set of a clash that featured 19 service breaks.