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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Monday January 11, 2020

 
Sebastian Korda

Sebastian Korda pushed past John Isner in Delray Beach to reach his first ATP semifinal.

Photo Source: Getty

The last six months have represented a true coming of age for 20-year-old American Sebastian Korda. After a summer’s worth of hard work he achieved a breakout result at Roland Garros, powering to the second week. Then he spent two weeks in Las Vegas with Andre Agassi this winter, growing his game and his confidence.

Tennis Express

This week in Delray Beach that confidence is on full display. Korda battled past John Isner on Monday in Florida, executing his game plan to perfection in a tense final set to book his first career semifinal, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

How did the young American hang in there against the bomb-serving American?

"I think towards the end I had one loose game, I kind of stopped swinging at the ball, it got away from me a couple times, but kind of just sticking with my plan and always making him play, even every single serve,” Korda said. “I think the big key for me was I changed up my court positioning on his serve, halfway through the third set and I had a couple of better looks on his serve, so I think that was the key for me tonight."

Korda managed three breaks of serve on seven opportunities, but he saved his best for last. After earning the break for 5-3 in the final set, Korda then fell behind 0-40 in his ensuing service game before collecting himself and reeling off the final five points.

It was yet another unruffled moment from a young player that appears to have poise beyond his years.

Isner himself admitted that he saw and felt the confidence from the kid.

“It’s not necessarily a tangible thing but he’s grown in confidence, that’s the most important thing, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “It’s not so much, ‘Oh, he hit his forehand tonight better than he did in Paris.’ It’s just that he’s just more confident and he believes that he belongs as a top player on the ATP Tour. Once you sort of gain that belief it can take you a long way.”

Korda, who will face Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie has enjoyed his time in Florida a great deal. He told reporters earlier in the week about his time in Las Vegas in the winter. Two weeks of tennis and deep conversation with one of the all-time greats, and some quality time on court with Steffi Graf as well.

“He asked my dad and myself if I would be interested to come visit after the season before Australia, and I was all for it, so me and my dad and my fitness trainer we all went there,” Korda said. “It was kind of a trip to just kind of meet each other and understand each other a little bit more. He's never seen me on the court so he wanted to get a little bit more feel for me. I think just for our relationship, our relationship built for those two weeks. It was an awesome two weeks."

Korda didn’t hit as much with Graf, the legendary 22-time major champion and wife of Agassi, but that was fine with him. Here’s why:

"I was on court a couple of times with Steffi, I didn't want to play with her, I was way too intimidated by her,” he said. “Her forehand crosscourt was just killing me so I was like 'I can't do this anymore.' She was incredible, she would give me some tips on the court and the energy that she brings every single day, you just knew that she was such a competitor, she'd get made at herself when she missed, she would skyrocket, it was awesome to see her on court, it was super special."

Still on the outside of the Top 100, Korda could poke into the Top 100 with a title at Delray Beach, but it’s all gravy at the moment. He is enjoying his confidence, enjoying his game, and not in a rush to go anywhere too fast.

"To keep building my body and keep playing these good matches, and practicing with these bigger guys has been my goal this year, I'd say just getting comfortable playing around here, playing with fans, just a bunch of little things that are kind of my goals, just keep being positive and keep putting in the hard work, it's such a long road ahead. I'm 20 years old and hopefully I can play tennis for ten, fifteen-plus years, it's a long road and I'm in no hurry."

Christian Harrison’s Dream Run Continues

Earlier in the week we covered the remarkable surge of 26-year-old Christian Harrison, he of the eight surgeries and 789 ranking, who had battled his way into the quarterfinals. Today, he took it a step further with a win over Italy’s Gianluca Mager to reach his first ATP semifinal. Harrison is also in the doubles semifinals with his brother Ryan.

It’s been great to see the American, once a promising teen that was ticketed for a great career, finally have a special moment on tour.

"The whole time where I was out I just realized that who I wanted to be as a person, or just in general what gave me enjoyment wasn't always reflective of my tennis success,” Harrison said. “I play tennis because I love doing it and then I also believe in myself.”

Harrison says he has had to deal with the disappointment of not meeting expectations as he was coming up on tour, but now he’s no longer feeling that pressure.

“I definitely had a lot of moments when I was younger, like when I was 16, I definitely had a lot of hype and there was a lot of potential and when you are not able to play, you don't really have that same type of attention, but then I just realized that it doesn't change anything about me so then that's why I guess now I'm having good results this week. I obviously want to do everything I'm doing to keep having results but I know that I'm not going to change anything that I'm doing."

In other action on Monday, Frances Tiafoe fell to Cameron Norrie, while Hubert Hurkacz knocked off Roberto Quiroz.

 

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