Sebastian Korda grew up looking up to Rafael Nadal.
Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Nadal says it won’t be long before the ATP Tour is looking up to Korda in the rankings.
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The top-seeded Nadal practiced with Korda at the Citi Open ahead of his return to the pro circuit in Washington, DC.
Asked to assess Korda’s game and potential, Nadal called the 45th-ranked American a complete player who has the ability to challenge for the top spot someday.
“Yeah, we have been practicing yesterday together,” Nadal said of Korda. “I think he’s young. Good physical look, good serve, good shots from the baseline. I think he’s a great guy, complete player.
“He has a lot of things to do in the next years in our sport. I think I always believe since I saw him play that he going to have the chance to be one of the best players of the world.”
The 21-year-old Korda calls Nadal his tennis idol and even named his cat after the king of clay. A former junior world No. 1, Korda is the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda and was playing just his fourth Tour-level event at Roland Garros last fall when he reached the round of 16 managing just four games against Nadal.
Korda came away from that experience even more impressed with Nadal after spending nearly two hours on court with his tennis hero.
“Just seeing him across the net. I mean, ever since I was a kid, I was in love with him and everything about him,” Korda said. “I would watch every single match. Doesn’t matter who he was playing or what tournament he was playing, he was the guy for me.
“It was an unbelievable moment for me and I couldn’t have written it any better. Qualifying for my first Grand Slam, winning my first tour-level match, and then playing Rafa on Chatrier in the fourth round of a Grand Slam, it’s a big blessing.”
Thirteen-time Roland Garros champion Nadal says Korda is still learning and needs to refine his game, but is convinced the young American “is going to be a great one.”
“I think he has all the things that he needs to be a definitely top guy,” Nadal said of Korda. “Of course, then things are not easy and you need to keep improving.
“But I definitely believe, if you ask me, he going to be a great one.”
Photo credit: Christopher Levy