Sebastian Korda: Living up to golf superstar sister Nelly’s standards is tough but winning Wimbledon is my holy grail

Alex Spink
Sebastian Korda of the US plays a return to Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria during their men's singles match on day five of The Queen's Club tennis tournament, in London
Sebastian Korda in action at the Queen's Club Championships

When Sebastian Korda reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final a year ago, he kept his feet on the ground by saying he was not even the best sportsperson in his family.

He said it with a laugh but it was less joke, more matter of fact. And 18 months on that truth has hardly altered.

When the Korda family lines up in order of world ranking, Seb is somewhere near the back. His golfing sister Nelly stands tall at No 1 – having won six LPGA tournaments already this year, including an astonishing five in a row.

Tennis-playing dad Petr got to No 2, winning a Slam in Australia along the way. Elder sister Jessica, a pro golfer like Nelly, reached No 6.

Seb can now claim to have overhauled Regina, his tennis-playing mum who made it into the top 30, and the manner of his progress on this grass-court swing would suggest he is far from done.

Days after making the final at ’s-Hertogenbosch without dropping a set, the 23-year old is continuing his purple patch at the cinch Championships, dispatching Karen Khachanov in two before today claiming the top 10 scalp of Grigor Dimitrov.

In an eagerly-awaited curtain raiser to what proved a short-lived farewell appearance for home favourite Andy Murray at Queen’s, Korda outlasted the Bulgarian world No 10 in the west London sunshine with a serve-heavy performance.

“What am I going to have to do to impress my family?” the Florida-born star said after his 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 victory. “A lot! It’s definitely not easy playing tennis and trying to live up to what my family has achieved.”

His mind goes back to the January-May run sister Nelly went on, when she reeled off wins like she was shelling peas.

“The first couple were very stressful for us all,” he recalled. “She was keeping us on her toes. But once she hit like three I was super relaxed. What an unbelievable achievement for her, just crazy.”

Korda’s immediate reward is a quarter-final against Australian qualifier Rinky Hijikata, but the American hopes the real benefits will be felt five miles down the road at Wimbledon.

Wimbledon men’s projected singles seeds: Jannik Sinner at No 1, Carlos Alcaraz fighting for No 2 spot, five Americans feature

Korda went into last year’s All England Club Championships saying he “definitely” felt like one of the favourites to lift the Gentlemen’s Singles trophy. He crashed out in the first round.

The world No 23 is not about to get ahead of himself again, but retains the latent self-belief you would expect of someone with his sporting genes.

“Grass is obviously a surface I really enjoy playing on and hopefully I can peak at the right time,” he said. “I do put a lot of pressure on myself to do well, especially going into Wimbledon.

“That’s the holy grail, the one you want to do well at the most. Hopefully the timing is right and I can play some good matches there.”

Korda tonight left the Queen’s locker room and headed back to his digs to put in a call home.

“My family is very heavily involved,” he confirmed. “We text each other, call each other every single day. They’re my team from far away. Being there for each other is massive for us all.

“We all push each other pretty hard and I think it’s a good thing golf and tennis are both individual sports with a lot of similarities.

“You’re by yourself out there. Yes, you have your team on the sidelines in tennis and your caddie in golf. But, predominately, it’s just you and you have got to think pretty quick.”

It is 14 years since an American won the singles event at Queen’s, and 24 since Pete Sampras raised the Stars and Stripes at SW19 for the seventh and last time. A US winner in this part of the tennis world is long overdue.

“We’re all working hard, all wanting to achieve that, all wanting to be the first to get there,” insisted Korda, a Queen’s semi-finalist a year ago.

“We’re all doing the right things, all playing better tennis every day and progressing in a really positive way. I think it’s just a matter of time until one of us gets it.”