02:00 AM GMT October 02, 2020
When #NextGenATP American Sebastian Korda walks on Court 7 on Friday afternoon at Roland Garros for his third-round match against Pedro Martinez, his two biggest fans — sisters Jessica, 27 and Nelly, 22 — will be glued to their computer screens an ocean away in the United States.
The Korda Sisters, who are professional golfers on the LPGA Tour, are competing in a tournament this week in New Jersey. But that hasn’t stopped them from waking up as early as 5 a.m. to watch their 20-year-old brother play in Paris.
“The hardest part of all of this is we can’t be there,” Jessica said. “He can’t feel our excitement of points being won or hear our encouragement when we’re screaming at the TV or screaming at our computers.”
Jessica and Nelly believe it’s harder for them to watch their brother compete than it is to play themselves because they can’t control the outcome.
“When we go out and play it’s in our own hands,” Jessica said. “When we watch, we’re just watching and we want to be there. We want to support and we want to encourage him. But we can’t because we’re watching through a screen as well. It’s hard for sure.”
Sebastian, who is ‘Seb’ to his sisters and generally nicknamed ‘Sebi’, played his first two main draw matches first on his court on the schedule. But even though his sisters can’t physically be at his tournaments a large majority of the time because they are professional athletes, they are with him in spirit. Even if that has meant early-morning alarms.
“He’ll definitely come back to a lot of texts,” Nelly said. “No matter what, we’re usually the first ones to text him, even if it’s a bad day or if it’s a good day. Same with him for us.”
The World No. 213 began the week without a tour-level victory. But he has proven himself a strong competitor by qualifying for the main draw and reaching the third round. While no member of the family, especially Sebi, is focussing on anyone but Pedro Martinez, he could potentially face one of his idols in the fourth round: Rafael Nadal. To put in perspective how much Nadal means to Sebi, they have a cat named Rafa.
“Honestly I think he would be so excited on court,” Nelly said.
“He’d have the biggest smile on his face,” Jessica said. “For someone who doesn’t show a whole lot of emotion, I guarantee he’d have a smile on his face.”
Nelly added: “Or just before he would just be freaking out and be like, ‘Oh my God, this is so cool!’"
Jessica said: "As it would start he would be very intense and then after be like, ‘That was the coolest thing ever!’"
Korda has a fun side, too. After upsetting 21st seed John Isner in the second round, he made a swimming motion towards his team. Korda later posted on social media that he bet his team they would have to swim the length of the Charles Bridge in Prague if he qualified and made it to the third round.
“Once you get to know Seb, he is such a goofball,” Nelly said. “I would say Jess is the most outgoing of us three and Seb’s definitely the biggest goofball.”
“There were so many times when I would come home to a video or even times when I was in Bradenton visiting everyone that after tennis he wouldn’t take any of his clothes off, nothing. He would just walk straight into the back and just walk into the pool,” Jessica remembered. “Didn’t look left or right, he just fell into the water with all of his clothes on.
“Every single thing that he does is just so silly. He just makes it so much fun. When I was trying to skip rope and I was trying to do the double jumps, I was so proud of myself because I did eight or nine in a row and Seb sends me a video with like 100 of them and he’s like, ‘Beat that!’"
One of the toughest dilemmas for the Korda siblings is that because they are all professional athletes, they don’t often see each other. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, they were able to spend more time together. Nelly and Sebi live nearby, making it easier for them. Although Jessica lives on the opposite side of Florida, they still found time to visit each other.
“It's awesome,” Sebi said. “We're always in contact and we're always talking about what we can do better and how we're doing. They're a big help and I love them a lot.
“This year in quarantine I saw my sister Nelly a lot and I saw my other sister, Jessica, a good amount as well. So it was nice to have everybody at home and [especially] because we don't spend a lot of time together.”
Jessica and Nelly are two of the best golfers in the world, but Sebi was proud to tell the media that he beat one of them when they were younger.
“My only claim to fame is the only tournament I ever played I won and I beat [Nelly] when I was like 11 years old,” Sebi said. “[She] will never live that one down.”
“He beat me in one tournament we played… in Prague, Czech Republic when we were really young,” said Nelly, currently World No. 2. “But in terms of creativity and pulling off shots, he beats me by a mile. He is super talented when it comes to being creative and pulling off 60-yard hooks and landing it on the green, it’s crazy.”
“He’s definitely the most athletic Korda,” Jessica added. “I would say he’s more athletic than my dad as well.”
Their father is former World No. 2 Petr Korda, the 1998 Australian Open champion. Ironically, the Korda sisters both won the women’s golf Australian Open and Sebi triumphed in the Melbourne boys’ singles draw. But they all value their personal relationships over their athletic accolades.
“Our family has a very close connection and close ties. Their time is very precious when they’re together, so we let them be kids. [Even though they’re professional athletes], they still will be our kids,” Petr said. “They have daily conversations between them. If one of them isn’t doing well, they try to support each other. It’s an effort from all corners.”
Many people ask Sebi and his sisters about the pressure of being Petr Korda’s child. But they also note that their mother, Regina Kordova, was a professional tennis player who reached a carer-high World No. 26. The Korda siblings simply focus on carving their own path. And above all, they stick together and support one another through their good times and bad.
“He’s making his own way in life and in tennis and unfortunately he’s always going to be compared to what our dad accomplished, mom being ranked really high as well,” Nelly said. “He’ll make his own way and it’ll be one step at a time, but we’ll always be there cheering him on.”