The Korda sisters didn’t play great by their high standards. Nelly finished fifth and Jessica tied for 13th. But despite a relatively decent week, they were among the happiest players in the field at the ShopRite Classic. The two could barely contain their glee, not because of anything they were doing but because of what happened 3,600 miles and six time zones away.
The youngest sibling in the Korda family, Sebastian (known as Sebi), became the first player born in the 2000s to advance to the fourth round of any grand slam event when he played his way through three rounds of the Roland-Garros tennis championship (normally called the French Open). Sebi Korda, who traveled to Europe with his hitting partner but no family member, arrived in Paris ranked 213th in the world. He went through qualifying to get into the field at Roland Garros, and then beat Italy’s Andreas Seppi in the first round and fellow American John Isner, the No. 21 seed, in the second. A straight-sets defeat of Spain’s Pedro Martinez advanced him to a fourth-round match against his idol, Rafael Nadal.
Thanks to the miracle of the internet, Sebi’s sisters watched every point, even on Sunday when the 20-year-old fell, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 to Nadal, who gave Korda an ovation as the competitors left the court.
“It’s been awesome,” Jessica Korda said of watching her brother in France. “(Nelly and I) changed our practice round time on Wednesday so we could play later because he was playing at 5 in the morning here. So, we’ve been adjusting to (his playing schedule) and then catching a couple of naps here and there in the afternoon.
“But we’re so excited and just proud to watch him and support him. He’s there almost by himself. He's got his hitting partner there with him and everybody else is here kind of cheering him on (from afar). But we’ve been there every step of the way.”
The siblings’ parents, Petr Korda and Regina Rajchrtová, were both world-class tennis players. Petr won the 1996 Australian Open and reached No. 2 in the world rankings (the same spot in the Rolex Rankings his daughter, Nelly, currently occupies in golf) while Regina was an Olympian in the 1998 Summer Games in Seoul and climbed as high as 22nd in the world. And while both parents often can be found in galleries at LPGA Tour events and in the stands at tennis tournaments throughout the year, COVID-19 has forced them to follow all three of their children from home in Bradenton, Florida.
“He finished his match (on Friday against Martinez) when we were driving over (to the Seaview Resort outside Atlantic City) and my heart rate was definitely too elevated going to the golf course,” Nelly said. “It should not be that elevated. But it was really fun.”