Sebastian drives the golf ball 275 yards either left- or right-handed – an ambidextrous facility that helps him with that double-handed backhand of his. He will need that shot in the next round when he faces the defending champion Rafael Nadal, a 6-1, 6-4, 6-0 winner over Stefano Travaglia of Italy.
Korda has known Nadal a long time. There is a cute picture of them together, dating back 11 years from the 2009 US Open – a tournament that Petr Korda attended while coaching fellow Czech Radek Stapanek.
While waiting for the Nadal result, Korda said “I’m praying that he wins. I mean, he’s my biggest idol. He’s one of the reasons I play tennis. Just watching him play, unbelievable competitor. Just from him I have the never-give-up mentality. Whenever I’m on court, I try to be like him.
“Growing up, I named my cat Rafa after him. That says a lot about how much I love the guy.”
Korda attributes his stamina and poise at this tournament to the work he did with his new fitness trainer, Marek Vseticek, during lockdown. Although they could not be together in person, they spoke every day, and his coltish frame has filled out noticeably.
After his previous victory, Korda had mimed a swimming stroke on the court, in reference to a pre-event bet he struck with Vseticek and the rest of his team. “We went to dinner in the city in Prague. We were having dinner on the water. I was just looking out.
“I was like, If I qualify and make third round, you guys got to swim across. My coach, my fitness trainer and Radek Stepanek, 100 per cent. We shook on it. Yeah, so it’s going to be an interesting bet. I can’t wait for it.”
One wonders what he will make his team do if somehow, by a freak of sporting nature, he beats Nadal.