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Korda Dishes On Djokovic Battle, Coach Stepanek & Goals For 2023

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2023

Korda Dishes On Djokovic Battle, Coach Stepanek & Goals For 2023

American off to a quick start in 2023

Before the Adelaide International 1 final, multiple photos of a young Sebastian Korda with Novak Djokovic went viral. Ahead of the match, former World No. 1 Djokovic had high praise for the 22-year-old American.

“[He is] one of the players that has kind of the cleanest striking technique that you can see on the Tour. I mean, he’s so talented. Everything seems very flawless with him. Just effortless, not flawless,” Djokovic said. “The way he plays, the way he moves on the court, just beautiful-looking tennis. Going to try to make it ugly tomorrow.”

Djokovic added that it is not a matter of if, but when Korda will crack the Top 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The World No. 31 took notice of the Serbian’s kind words.

“I saw that he wanted to make my game ugly,” Korda told, cracking a laugh. “It’s funny, it’s awesome to hear those great words from him and I’ve gotten a lot of great words from Nadal and him. It’s really kind of inspiring to just keep pushing forward knowing I’m doing the right things and just keep believing in myself and [knowing that] I’m on the right path.”

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Korda came close to stunning Djokovic in the championship match. The Floridian held championship point in the second set, but the 92-time tour-level titlist rallied for a 6-7(8), 7-6(3), 6-4 triumph after three hours and nine minutes. It was not the first close call for Korda, who pushed Rafael Nadal to a final-set tie-break at last year’s BNP Paribas Open.

“Obviously I’ve had my chances against Nadal and then Djokovic, but I’m still young and those moments will only help me going forward as long as I learn from them,” Korda said. “I think overall there are still a lot of positives to take away from the match. It was very close, but still very far.”

One person missing from Adelaide was Korda’s new head coach, Radek Stepanek. The Czech star, who cracked the world’s Top 10 in singles and doubles, spent time in Florida during the offseason and will meet Korda in Melbourne for the Australian Open.

“It’s definitely different. My dad coached him for 13 years and now Radek is coaching me. It’ll probably end up that I’ll coach his daughters if they play tennis and then so on and so on,” Korda said. “But it’s really cool. I think we match perfectly well. He’s the main coach on my team and I also have Martin Stepanek, so a lot of great new additions to my team. I think it’s all been very positive so far.”

The pictures of Djokovic and Korda that went viral came from a time when Korda would follow Stepanek on the Tour while Petr Korda, Sebi’s father, coached him. Stepanek has long been like family to the Kordas.

“He was my big brother growing up. I only have two sisters, I never had a brother, but he was that guy for me. We’d go on family vacations together to the mountains to go ski, he’d take me to tournaments. He would take me under his wing, take me into the locker rooms, player dining and just get used to the tennis player lifestyle,” Korda said. “I think a lot of the success today is because of those moments. I’m very grateful to have been surrounded by him and also my dad for all those years growing up.”

Stepanek did not pack the powerful punch Korda did, but he made up for it with his frequent trips to the net and court sense. What is he adding to the American’s game?

“I think just to see the game in a different way. He had to be really smart on the court with the way he played,” Korda said. “He’d come to the net and be aggressive, which is kind of what we’re trying to do with my game. I think so far we’ve put in a lot of great work. It’s been really showing.”

That was especially the case against Djokovic. The Serbian is one of the best defenders in the history of the sport, but Korda often found ways to blast through his walls and take control of points.

“I think that’s the way you want to have that feeling on the court, that you’re in control. I think a lot of the matches I play with the gamestyle that I have, I’ll be dictating most of the matches. So a lot of the matches will be on my racquet, and kind of just depend [on] what I do with it. I think it’s really big for me,” Korda said. “Definitely you want to be in the position where you’re the one dictating and that’s the way my game is built and how it’s going to be built going forward.”

Korda is happy with his big week in Adelaide, but is focussed on continuing to improve. He sees his performance at the Australian ATP 250 as a sign he is on the right track, and he intends to stay on it.

“Definitely one day at a time,” Korda said. “But obviously I’d love to finish the year Top 20, Top 15. Those are what our eyes are set on and I think we’ll put a really big push into it and hopefully get it done.”

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Alternate, Lucky Loser, Winner! Haase's Mad Dash To Victory In Adelaide

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2023

Alternate, Lucky Loser, Winner! Haase’s Mad Dash To Victory In Adelaide

Learn about the Dutchman’s whirlwind Tuesday at the ATP 250

Robin Haase was laying in bed at his Adelaide hotel on Tuesday afternoon, waiting to head to Memorial Drive for a 2:15 p.m. lunch before a 4:30 p.m. practice ahead of an evening doubles match at the Adelaide International 2.

That was when the Dutchman received a big surprise. The ATP tour manager on site called to ask the 35-year-old if he could make it to the venue by 2 p.m. to take a lucky loser spot in the singles draw. On Monday, he had lost in the final round of qualifying to Tomas Martin Etcheverry in straight sets.

By the moment Haase looked at the time, he had four minutes.

“I was [the] second lucky loser [on the day’s list] and so of course there was actually no chance to get in because everyone is here. If by any chance there was someone, then it would be one and I was second. So I was lucky that he couldn’t play,” Haase told “And then I had to rush. It’s four minutes before the match…

“I was speed-walking and I forgot my accreditation so I [saw] the security guard while I was running. He said, ‘Hey, you need to get scanned’, and I was like, ‘Yeah just follow me, I’ve got to go on court.’ I told him [to] get security. It was kind of funny.”

Two of the four players on the lucky loser list, Soonwoo Kwon and Christopher O’Connell, took their place in the main draw on Monday. When Maxime Cressy withdrew ahead of his match against Benjamin Bonzi on Tuesday due to a back injury, the first player who was called was unable to make it by the time the match was announced at 2 p.m.

That is why Haase, whose first priority is now doubles, was summoned. The No. 257 player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings had been an alternate in qualifying. Suddenly, he was a speed-walk from his hotel away from having another chance.

The Dutchman had eaten a “very early” breakfast because he trained with doubles partner Matwe Middelkoop at 10 a.m. Haase “wasn’t hungry at all”, but Middelkoop wanted to eat, so the two-time ATP Tour singles titlist ate a “tiny sandwich” at 11:20 a.m. That was all he had in his stomach when he took the court against Bonzi. During the match, he ate half a banana.

“Of course I didn’t have any warmup, so I decided to use the first few games as a warmup because I didn’t want to get injured,” Haase said. “Then I started to play actually quite good. He served for the match and my girlfriend, I told her as a joke, ‘Every point I win now we do a small dance’, and suddenly I broke him and it worked and I got loose.

“He had a match point in the second-set tie-break as well and then [in the] third set coming down from a break again was unbelievable.”

Haase ultimately won his first ATP Tour main draw match since February 2021, advancing past Bonzi 3-6, 7-6(8), 7-6(3) to earn a second-round clash against fourth seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

“In the end I played a good match and then it’s crazy to win it,” Haase said. “I’ve been an alternate and a lucky loser and the way it happened, I think I had all the luck in the world.”

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Barrere Survives Isner Serving Storm, Cyclone Hale In Auckland

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2023

Barrere Survives Isner Serving Storm, Cyclone Hale In Auckland

#NextGenATP Shelton earns first international win

French qualifier Gregoire Barrere survived an ace deluge from two-time champion John Isner and a move indoors due to Cyclone Hale to move into the second round of the ASB Classic in Auckland Wednesday. The World No. 88 survived 28 aces from sixth-seeded Isner to advance 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-3.

Avenging a four-set loss to Isner in the second round of Roland Garros last year, Barrere cracked a clean cross-court service return winner off an aggressive Isner second serve in the eighth game of the third set to claim the only break of serve in the match.

Barrere notched just his fourth win in 23 outings against Top 50 opposition. He has never beaten a Top 50 player outdoors, but didn’t need to today after matches were moved indoors due to torrential rain. Barrere was solid on his own serve, winning 84 per cent of first serves and 69 per cent of second serves. He did not face a break point.

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The 28-year-old will next face countryman Constant Lestienne.

Isner, who already holds the record for most aces since records began in 1991, is now just 12 aces away from becoming the first man to reach 14,000 aces at ATP Tour and Grand Slam events.

In other early Wednesday action, Marcos Giron rallied from a set down to defeat Argentine Federico Coria 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-5 to set a second-round meeting with fellow American J.J. Wolf.

Wild card Ben Shelton earned the first international win of his career when he defeated Next Gen ATP Finals alumnus Sebastian Baez 7-6(1), 6-2 after one hour and 23 minutes. The lefty hit nine aces and saved both break points he faced to advance.

“I thought I did a really good job of staying composed throughout the first set tonight and really hitting my stride in the second set,” Shelton said. “I had a difficult week last week in Adelaide and this being my first time out of the United States, I was glad for my ability to adapt after this first week, getting my bearings. I felt like I did a pretty good job for a first-round match tonight.”

Another American advanced when qualifier Christopher Eubanks eliminated French wild card Ugo Humbert 7-6(4), 7-6(3). Other first-round winners included Frenchman Quentin Halys and Czech Jiri Lehecka.

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Paul Makes Perfect Start To His Season In Adelaide

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2023

Paul Makes Perfect Start To His Season In Adelaide

American will next face Draper of Great Britain

Tommy Paul made two quarter-finals in Adelaide last year. Will the American advance even further this week?

The World No. 35 won his first match of the season Tuesday, when he defeated Australian lucky loser Christopher O’Connell 6-4, 7-5 to reach the second round of the Adelaide International 2.

“First match of the season is always a little tough and everyone has nerves going into the first match, so I was happy to go out and play the way that I did,” Paul said. “I didn’t really do too much wrong and I served well.”

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Paul faced just one break point, which he saved, and won 81 per cent of his service points in the match.

“I was down in Floirida practising a bunch,” Paul said. “I was on court with Reilly [Opelka] a little bit, so hopefully he rubbed off on me a little bit and I can keep that going this week.”

The eighth seed will next face Briton Jack Draper, who advanced on Monday over Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

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Stricker Moves On In AO Qualifying; Mixed Day For Italians

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2023

Stricker Moves On In AO Qualifying; Mixed Day For Italians

Italians Passaro, Bellucci, Zeppieri advance

NextGen ATP semi-finalist Dominik Stricker has advanced to the second round of Australian Open qualifying for the second consecutive year after defeating German veteran Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-3, 6-4 at Melbourne Park Tuesday.

The 20-year-old, who fell to Australian veteran Matthew Ebden in the second round of AO qualifying last year, is yet to reach the final round of qualifying at a major. Stricker came up big in pressure moments, converting five of his break point chances and saving six of the eight break points on his own serve.

It was a mixed day for young Italian players. Francesco Passaro, 22, defeated 37-year-old Czech Lukas Rosol and 21-year-old Mattia Bellucci enjoyed a 6-3, 6-4 win over Chinese Taipei’s Wu Tung-Lin.

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Rome’s Giulio Zeppieri, 21, also advanced Tuesday, defeating Santiago Rodriguez Taverna 6-4, 6-3.

But Italian Luca Nardi, who is expected to contend for a berth at this year’s Next Gen ATP Finals, had a disappointing debut in the Australian Open qualifying, falling 6-3, 6-1 to American Ernesto Escobedo.

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Fellow Italian Flavio Cobolli, 20, also suffered a first-round exit in qualies, beaten 6-0, 6-4 by American Mitchell Krueger.

French veteran Benoit Paire drew on his experience to edge Brazil’s Matheus Pucinelli De Almeida 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-5.

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Five Things To Know About Netflix Break Point Star Casper Ruud

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2023

Five Things To Know About Netflix Break Point Star Casper Ruud

Norwegian has lifted nine ATP Tour titles

Casper Ruud’s determination to never stop improving has helped him become the most successful male player in the history of Norwegian tennis.

Yet despite winning nine ATP Tour titles, reaching two Grand Slam finals and climbing as high as No. 2 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, the 23-year-old remains one of the most grounded personalities in the game.

As Netflix’s new documentary series Break Point takes a behind-the-scenes look at Ruud’s 2022 season, lays out five things to know about the ice-cool Norwegian.

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1) Like Father, Like Son
Both Ruud and his father Christian Ruud are considered trailblazers for Norwegian tennis. The former World No. 39 Christian was the highest-ranked Norwegian in Pepperstone ATP Rankings history until Casper stormed past that benchmark in 2020. Casper has gone on to reach a career-high ranking of No. 2 and in 2022 reached the final at both Roland Garros and the US Open. He happily attributes some of that success to Christian, who is his long-time coach.

“We looked at some [other coaches], but I said that, ‘I’m more comfortable with you being around’,” Casper told last year. “I know that a coach will do so much for you and be very helpful, but when it’s the father as well, you feel like you are taken extra care of, because a father will care maybe those extra percentages because he’s your family.”

<a href=''>Christian Ruud</a>, <a href=''>Casper Ruud</a>

Christian Ruud watches his son Casper during practice at Roland Garros in 2021. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

2) He Is A Golf Fanatic
It wasn’t just tennis that Ruud took to at an early age. The Norwegian is also a lifelong golf lover and tries to sneak in a round whenever his busy schedule on Tour allows. The 23-year-old even has a separate Instagram account (@casper_golfer) dedicated to his passion for the sport.

“I love the way that golf is so challenging, but it’s also possible for normal people to earn a good score,” wrote Ruud on in 2020. “Anyone can make a birdie if they are a bit lucky and, in those moments, it feels so easy to play golf. At other times, it feels so hard. The highs and lows of the sport are extreme, even more than tennis, and the details are so small.”

3.) Shania Twain Is Impressed
Having witnessed Ruud’s title win in Gstaad in 2021, country music legend Shania Twain returned to Switzerland last year to support the Norwegian in his bid for a second consecutive title in the beautiful Alpine town. Once again, she enjoyed watching Ruud power his way to victory, later tweeting in support of her friend. “Spent my Sunday watching Casper Ruud win his second Swiss Open Gstaad,” Twain wrote. “Congratulations my friend, what a result!”

Ruud, who first met the Canadian singer through mutual friends during his 2021 run, was thankful for Twain’s backing. “I really appreciated that she came back this year and supported me in the final,” he said after his 2022 victory. “It was nice to see her again.”

4) He Has Trained At The Academy Of His Childhood Idol, ATP Tour Legend Rafael Nadal
Ruud has often spoken about how he grew up idolising Rafael Nadal, and since September 2018 the Norwegian has had the chance to train frequently with the Spanish legend, at times making the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar in Mallorca his home base.

“I always felt like I’ve played with good intensity in my game, and I need it to play well, but I’ve gotten that extra 10 or 20 per cent from being there,” Ruud, who was outside the Top 100 when he made the move to Spain, told prior to the 2020 season. “That’s the small margin that can change whether you’re No. 10 [in the ATP Rankings] or No. 60… When I practise with Rafa, he gets to push me around and I’m usually exhausted after a couple of hours. They’re tough sessions, but they’re great.”

5) He Is One Of A Number Of Norwegians Making Their Mark On The World Stage.
Ruud is part of a wave of young Norwegians that have taken the sporting world by storm in recent years. Manchester City football star Erling Haaland, Top 10-ranked golfer Viktor Hovland and champion Olympic runner Jakob Ingebrigtsen also hail from a northern European nation usually more associated with success in winter sports. With a population of just five million, how does Ruud explain the sudden emergence of so many superstars?

“I guess we are young, hungry to do well, just focused on our sports,” Ruud said last year when asked about his, Haaland and Ingebrigtsen’s success. “It’s not something you can plan. It just happens. It’s coincidental sometimes.

“Maybe it’s the salmon we eat or the fresh water. I don’t know what’s going on… We hope we can keep it going, that more people can know about Norway as a country and also athletes from Norway that can do well in bigger sports.”

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