Korda carving his own path on the clay

 - Alex Sharp

Sebastian Korda and Jack Sock kept their qualifying quest intact alongside French success on home soil.

Sebastian Korda, Roland Garros 2020, qualifying second round© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Sebastian Korda is a name you’ll likely recognise and is certainly a player you’ll see a lot more of in future Roland-Garros editions.

Two years ago, the 20-year-old was an Australian Open junior champion, a platform he shared with his father Petr, men’s champion in Melbourne in 1998.

Korda, a 6-4, 6-4 winner over Canadian Brayden Schnur on Tuesday, is building his own legacy and is content to do so at his own pace.

“I’ve had two good matches under my belt and I’m ready to keep it going here. I’m progressing slowly but my game and results are definitely going up. I started pretty late, playing my first ITF event at 15-years-old, so I’m on a different path to everyone else,” said the current world No.212.

“I’ve done a good job in recent years building up my body for the requirements of the modern game, whilst picking up results.”

His dad was also a finalist at Roland-Garros in 1992 and as coach, Petr has offered up a few pearls of wisdom for his son to duel on the terre battue.

Sebastian Korda, Roland Garros 2020, qualifying second round© Julien Crosnier/FFT

“I grew up on the clay,” added the Florida native. “He did a really good job of building my foundations when I started, how to get a feel for the surface. We talk every single day, he’s giving me all sorts of advice and helping me a lot.”

At his first-ever Grand Slam showing at this month’s US Open, Korda took a set off world No.10 Denis Shapovalov.

“I don’t think I’m anywhere near my potential, so it made me believe I can keep up with these guys, that I have the level to compete with the top.” 

He is just one match away from a second successive major main draw, with Russia’s Aslan Karatsev standing in his way.

Former world No.8 Jack Sock bolstered his momentum with a gutsy 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(1) comeback over Argentine Facundo Bagnis.

“I have to take every opportunity. It’s been a weird year but I have to try and build. This will most likely be my last tournament of the year,” said Sock, who suffered an injury-plagued 2019. “So I have to give it my all here. Right now, singles is the priority, I’m working to get back to the best of my abilities. That’s my goal, the reason why I’m still playing.”

Flick through the record books and Sock reached his first Grand Slam second week at Roland-Garros 2015. Notable victories over Grigor Dimitrov, Pablo Carreno Busta and Borna Coric set up a blockbuster fourth round clash.

Jack Sock, Roland Garros 2020, qualifying second round© Loïc Wacziak/FFT

“That was when I was a young buck,” said Sock with a grin. “That’s when the body felt good. Obviously, I have strong memories of that run. Looking back, it was a bunch of tough dirt-ballers and high-ranked guys. That was a special moment for me, playing the ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal, playing a pretty competitive match, taking him to four sets.” 

The 27-year-old will hope to harness those memories to checkout of qualifying facing Andrey Kuznetsov, the 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 victor against eighth seed Taro Daniel.

2018 semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato utilised his wealth of experience to post 6-2, 6-3 on the scoreboard against Frenchman Constant Lestienne.

Meanwhile, Enzo Couacaud narrowly missed out on the main draw of his home major last season, but is once again at the third qualifying stage courtesy of a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Argentina’s Juan Pablo Ficovich.

Likewise, home charge Benjamin Bonzi nullified the scorching serves of Ivo Karlovic to book a third-round spot.

Benjamin Bonzi, Roland Garros 2020, qualifying second round© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Bonzi, having saved five match points during his first-round triumph, secured a 6-3, 7-6(3) scoreline, which included an exemplary tiebreak, to move one step closer.

“I couldn’t be happier to perform like that. He is such a big server, you have to be so focused every moment,” said Bonzi, who had the better of world No.5 Daniil Medvedev at Roland-Garros 2017.

“It took me a while to find my rhythm, but then I got more and more back, keeping him off balance and forcing mistakes. His serve huge, you have to try and pick one side and go for it.  

“It would be amazing. I qualified once for Wimbledon (2018), but I would love to do it in my home country. I’ll give it my all in the last match.”

Dustin Brown rallied to triumph 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 versus another Frenchman Alexandre Muller, whilst Emilio Gomez, second seed Pedro Martinez and Jurij Rodionov all advanced.

Spanish stalwart Tommy Robredo’s campaign is over following a 6-4, 6-3 defeat by No.15 seed Jason Jung.