Korda cracks Top 100, Melbourne mania begins

The Next Gen American Sebastian Korda reaches another milestone, whilst the tennis world zones in on Melbourne for a feast of tennis ahead of the Australian Open.

Rafael Nadal Melbourne 2021©Tennis Australia / Jay Town
 - Alex Sharp

Sebastian Korda keeps reeling off the wins in 2021.

Sebastian Korda Challenger Quimper 2021©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

The towering American began the season with a final showing at Delray Beach (lost to Hubert Hurkacz) and has now proven his quality again in Quimper with an ATP Challenger title run in western France.

The 20-year-old’s reward is catapulting into the Top 100 for the first time, at a career-high world No.88 on Monday. 

Korda, whose major breakthrough came en route to the Roland-Garros 2020 fourth round, saved match point against home hope Tristan Lamasine in his opening duel.

The second seed appeared comfortable as a leading light, thriving under pressure to claim all five tie-breaks on court last week. He also managed to sprinkle in a couple of magnificent hot shots from seemingly irretrievable court positions. 

The American, having hit with tennis royalty Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf in the off season, needed only 50 minutes to demolish world No.184 Filip Horansky 6-1, 6-1 in Sunday’s final in Quimper. 

Korda is a man on a mission, with two straight ATP Challenger titles, 14 wins in his past 15 matches. Skipping the Australian Open to focus on maintaining his momentum is proving to be a canny move. 

Dream line-up Down Under

What a sight for tennis, seeing fans in the stands in Adelaide last week.

Serena Williams edged Naomi Osaka, Rafael Nadal outgunned Dominic Thiem, with Simona Halep prevailing in an exhilarating ‘exhibition’ against the returning world No.1 Ash Barty.

The star names delivered and offered up the starter ahead of a feast of tennis Down Under.

Before the Australian Open begins on February 8th, the jampacked Melbourne Summer Series has sparked into life.

Six events (including the star-studded ATP Cup) across eight days at Melbourne Park, with a total of 388 matches. A real hat tip to the logistical skills at Tennis Australia. 

First up the Yarra Valley Classic which brings together seven Grand Slam champions into the field.

Barty, slotting seamlessly back into action in Adelaide, will open her account against world No.93 Ana Bogdan.

“I've been kind of a little bit impatient the last two or three months knowing that the summer was coming, getting excited to start and play again,” stated Barty, having not played competitively in a year. “Obviously I love playing in Australia. Personally, I'm really grateful and excited for the opportunity again to play here.”

It’s a mega draw with reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova all in contention.

Serena Williams, seeking that illusive 24th major, returns to the Tour for the first time since Roland-Garros 2020 against Melbourne local Daria Gavrilova. 

Swiatek taking it in her stride

Four months on from the teenager’s rock’n’roll maiden major triumph, Iga Swiatek is back under the spotlight at the Gippsland Trophy.

“I wouldn’t say it takes off pressure and I wouldn’t say I have more pressure. It’s kind of like the same. It’s constant. It only depends on how I approach these things,” insisted the Pole, reflecting on her Parisian conquest. “I try to keep my expectations low and keep doing what I did because it works.”

The Roland-Garros champion will ramp up her Australian Open preparations in another stacked draw, comprised of top seed Halep, US Opener winner Naomi Osaka, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka.

Stretching back to New York, Osaka arrives on an 11-match winning streak. Sabalenka, having won three successive tournaments, is riding a 15-match winning run. Something has to give!

The WTA Grampians Trophy (involving players from the 14-day quarantine) marks the return of Bianca Andreescu, with Belinda Bencic, Victoria Azarenka and Elena Rybakina involved.

Can Serbia strike twice?

The inaugural ATP Cup last January provided a plethora of scintillating contests to kickstart the men’s season. 

Eventually Novak Djokovic’s Serbia soared to the title. The world No.1 was 8-0 across singles and doubles, propelling him to an unprecedented eighth Australian Open crown.

15 of the Top 17 men will compete this week – Nadal, Thiem and Daniil Medvedev flying the flag for their nation in the 12-country event. 

All these marquee names will relish the chance to wear their home colours, but also to lay down a marker for the Australian Open fortnight. 

Elsewhere at Melbourne Park a duo of ATP 250 events round off the hectic schedule. 

2015 Roland-Garros winner Stan Wawrinka headlines the Murray River Open, with Grigor Dimitrov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Nick Kyrgios expected in the latter stages. 

The Great Ocean Road Open welcomes David Goffin, Karen Khachanov into the draw as well as recent Delray Beach champion Hurkacz and Italian sensation Jannik Sinner.