Korda Primed For China Debut, Eyeing Top 20 Finish
As Sebastian Korda recuperated from a testing summer in the United States, he watched with interest as Ben Shelton led an American charge at the US Open earlier this month. The 23-year-old Korda, who makes his debut in China this week at the Huafa Properties Zhuhai Championships, said it was inspiring to see his countrymen performing well.
Shelton’s charge ended in the semi-finals against eventual champion Novak Djokovic, while Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz managed to reach the last eight at Flushing Meadows. The results are one thing, but Korda was also impressed with the exciting manner in which the trio played and engaged with massive crowds during a headline-capturing fortnight.
“I think it is really great for American tennis [and] hopefully tennis in general. Hopefully we [are providing good] entertainment in some way,” Korda said.
“I think Ben did a great job at the US Open. He just really showed the world what he’s capable of and what he can do in the near future. And he’s got a great game. [He is] powerful, entertaining [and he] loves to kind of interact with fans as well. I think he’s a great role model for younger kids with the way that he plays. I think it’s awesome. It definitely pushes all of us to do better. And obviously, it shows the way, that it is possible for someone like him, or of any age, to be out there performing like him.”
Korda is well-positioned to know, for he was the shooting star of American tennis at the start of the year which began in highly encouraging fashion before he was stricken by a wrist injury. After falling to Djokovic in a compelling final in Adelaide, Korda joined Shelton in the Australian Open quarter-finals but was forced to retire against Karen Khachanov, who is the top seed in Zhuhai.
The right-hander returned to the Tour in April and looked to be regaining his best touch leading into the US Open before injuring his ankle in Winston-Salem. There was also a flourish of his best form at The Queen’s Club prior to Wimbledon and despite the injury misfortune, Korda believes he is more than capable of achieving a primary goal for 2023 – to break into the Top 20 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
Having peaked at No. 25 in June, Korda has slipped eight spots but he is confident in making significant inroads over the next three weeks in China. He has spent time practising with Chinese teenager Shang Juncheng in Zhuhai and said the slick hard courts at the Hengqin International Tennis Center are to his liking.
“It hasn’t been easy, for sure. But I enjoy these types of conditions playing here. It is kind of like indoor tennis, [which is] definitely one of my favourites,” he said. “My goal at the start of the year was to finish Top 20, Top 25. That’s still my goal. If I have a couple of good weeks, [I have] a good chance to do it. I have a lot of weeks ahead of me and hopefully I’ll have some good results to finish the year and prepare for next year.”
The American has only been in China for a week, but he feels at ease in Zhuhai.
“It’s actually a very, very beautiful place. [I’m] staying in a great hotel and have a great view of the whole city. It is very easy to be here. [I’m] very relaxed,” he said. “A lot of the players on the Tour said how great the crowds are here, the fans. People love tennis here… so I’m expecting a good week from the fans.”