Petr Korda proud to see son 'Sebi' soak up the spotlight

1992 Roland-Garros finalist nervously following from afar as son Sebastian sets up Nadal fourth round in Paris

Sebastian Korda, Roland Garros 2020, third round© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT
 - Ravi Ubha

When chatting with 1992 Roland-Garros finalist and 1998 Australian Open winner Petr Korda, he first apologised for any drops of silence that might occur. He was glued to the TV watching his daughters compete in the ShopRite LPGA Classic and anything dramatic was bound to elicit pauses. 

Nelly, 22, is the world’s second-ranked golfer, while 27-year-old Jessica is ranked 22nd and they were separated by a single shot heading into the weekend’s play in New Jersey.

But back home in Bradenton, Florida, Korda was up early in the morning to catch his tennis-playing son, Sebastian, who is making the cut on the red — mostly heavy these days — clay at Roland-Garros. 

Sebastian meets his idol, Rafael Nadal, on Sunday and even has a cat named after the 19-time Grand Slam winner. Bang on cue during our interview, the feline was making its presence known in the background.

“As you can hear, my Rafa is screaming here,” the Czech lefty, also the 1992 Roland-Garros finalist, told

He then asked wife Regina Kordova, a former pro herself who upset then world No.9 Manuela Maleeva on the way to reaching the third round in Paris in 1991, how old Rafa the cat was.

“10 years old,” he said.

Exactly half the age of Sebastian, who represents the US and has qualified for the main draw ranked 213th, collecting his first ever Grand Slam victories.

The entire family has been taking in his matches from different parts of the US and for dad, it has been an anxious time.

“Nerve-wracking,” was how Korda put it. “It’s much easier to be present than watching on TV or following the scores. It’s tough but I don’t hide that. But that’s the beauty of it.”

His daughters have given Sebastian an example to follow and Korda says “it’s phenomenal seeing them on the big stages in their lives”.

“All of us are very close,” he added.

Korda said he and Kordova never exerted pressure on their children to become athletes and in Sebastian’s case, a tennis pro.

Sebastian, for example, played ice hockey until around the age of 10. His thoughts seriously turned to tennis after accompanying dad to the US Open one year as he coached Radek Stepanek.

“Both my parents are incredible,” Sebastian said Friday, following a win over Spain’s Pedro Martinez in straight sets. “I can't be more grateful for them.”

Petr Korda, like Stepanek, didn’t lack charisma when he played, his scissor-kicking celebration a hallmark of his triumph in Melbourne and one emulated by Sebastian when he clinched the Australian Open junior crown in 2018.

Korda made it clear he wants Sebastian, a right-hander, to forge a path of his own instead of being known as Petr’s son.

Indeed, he became “emotional” when watching a Roland-Garros video entitled, ‘In the name of the father', which listed Sebastian’s achievements this week along with snippets of Petr’s 1992 sojourn in the background.

“It was really phenomenal, putting Sebi in the main highlights, then they squeezed me in the back,” said Korda. “I loved it. I want my kids to take the spotlight.”

Sebastian is earning his share in Paris but that would escalate exponentially if he becomes just the third man to beat Nadal at Roland-Garros on Sunday.

“You are going to play in the living room of Mr. Nadal. What else can you say?” Korda uttered.

While Nadal is the undisputed King of Clay, Korda had to contend with the grass-court king, Pete Sampras, during his time on tour and took Sampras to five sets at Wimbledon in 1997 as part of a stretch where the American won at SW19 in seven of eight seasons.

“The time I played Pete, I was already an established player,” Korda pointed out. “Sebi is an up-and-coming player. He still has one, two more years where he’s going to be learning about the game of tennis.”

But Korda said his son isn’t the type to go on court simply happy to share it with Nadal.

Sebastian Korda, Roland Garros 2020, second round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

“He can play freely but you cannot just show up, just play a match,” said Korda. “You have to come up with some attitude, ‘I want to beat Nadal’. I don’t think it’s his attitude to show up and just have a good time. He’s going to give his best. If Rafa wins, fantastic, he’s going to learn some valuable lessons.”

Sebastian revealed this week he made a bet with his team that if he qualified and made the third round, they would have to swim in the Vltava River under the famous Charles Bridge in Prague.

He fulfilled his part of the deal so will Petr, who has coached his son along with his wife, be donning the swimming trunks?

“I’ve been told about that bet. And to be honest, I feel sorry, because if they will have to swim in October, they will have to make sure that they will be fit enough to swim in that cold water,” said Korda.

“No, no, no, I’m out of it!”

Maybe he’ll reconsider if his son tops Nadal.