Korda Clutch Against Isner, Reaches Delray Beach Semi-finals
Sebastian Korda has wasted no time making his mark on the ATP Tour in 2021.
For a moment, it appeared Korda's big moment might come undone. As the World No. 119 served for the match, Isner jumped to a 0/40 advantage. The American No. 1 broke serve once in the second set, but the three points he played to gain that advantage were some of his best of the match.
Korda did not panic, instead playing some of his best tennis to battle through Isner's surge and triumph after one hour and 51 minutes. The former junior World No. 1 let out a massive roar on match point.
"I was super happy with how I played that whole game. I mean, he played an incredible first three points. The way he played those, I was like, 'Too good.' I couldn't really do anything. He came to the net, he played big balls, he played a super good three points," Korda said. "I just stuck with it, I got a little bit more aggressive. At the end, there was a lot of stress in that last game, so I kind of let it go [with the roar]."
Korda began the week with three tour-level wins, all of which came at Roland Garros last year. The 20-year-old in Florida has doubled that count, and now he will play Brit Cameron Norrie for a spot in the final. Korda's father, former World No. 2 Petr Korda, played in Delray Beach twice, but never made a quarter-final, let alone a semi-final. That's not something "Sebi" will remind his father of any time soon.
"No, because he's then just going to counter that and say, 'I've got a Grand Slam,'" Sebi joked. "My dad is not anything like that. He's all for me. As long as I'm happy, he's happy."
Isner crushed 13 aces and he battled until the end. But too often once rallies began, it was Korda controlling play and coming up with either an impressive passing shot or a key winner when he needed one.
"He's a good player. I think tonight in particular he was just a little bit better than I was. It was sort of an uphill battle for me out there," Isner said. "I wasn't maybe feeling that great out there, but I competed hard and I fought hard, but he came up with the goods."
Perhaps most impressive about Korda was his demeanour on court. Playing a grizzly veteran like Isner, against whom just a few minutes' lapse of concentration is costly, Korda remained calm throughout to earn one of the biggest wins of his young career.
"Whenever i'm on court my head is pretty clear and I'm a super positive guy on court, so I'm always in the moment and always super positive. There are very few times you'll see any emotion come out of me that's negative," Korda said. "I worked a lot on that during this break and it's paying off right now."
Norrie, Korda's next foe, eliminated 2018 champion Frances Tiafoe 6-0, 3-6, 6-4 after two hours and 14 minutes.
The 25-year-old lefty converted five of the 17 break points he earned in a back-and-forth match. In the key moments, Norrie was just a bit more solid to advance to the semi-finals.
"Credit to Frances. He fought real hard and I managed to get a little bit lucky in the third set there with a couple netcords and a couple close calls," Norrie said on court. "I started the match great and then he came back firing straight away in the second set and then I just managed to hold onto my serve and tough out those games. Then he played a little bit tentative towards the end. Real fortunate to get through."