02:25 PM GMT February 03, 2021
When Sebastian Korda embarked on his professional journey four years ago, this moment became a matter of when, not if. After all, sporting greatness is ingrained in the Korda family's DNA.
For all players striving to reach the upper echelons of the game, reaching the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings is that first major milestone. It is one that signals your arrival and confirms the belief that you belong on the same stage as the game's best players.
But not all journeys are created equal. Korda's path to the Top 100 was not quite as straightforward as he had hoped - or many expected.
"It's a little longer journey than the guys in the Top 100 right now, but I always say that I prefer mine over everybody else's," Korda told ATPTour.com. "With what I've experienced, I can appreciate things more."
On Monday, Korda celebrates his long-awaited debut among the 100 best players in the world. The 20-year-old has ascended to a career-high of No. 88 after lifting his second ATP Challenger Tour title in Quimper, France. The youngest player to break into the Top 100 since Jannik Sinner two years ago, he is also the youngest American to join the club since Frances Tiafoe in 2016.
Recent #NextGenATP American Top 100 Debuts
||20 years, 6 months
||1 February 2021
||20 years, 8 months
||1 October 2018
||20 years, 8 months
||3 April 2017
||18 years, 8 months
||10 October 2016
||19 years, 11 months
||12 September 2016
||18 years, 4 months
||29 February 2016
The 20-year-old has embraced the idea that his road to the top is a marathon, not a sprint. It's the philosophy that his father - former World No. 2 Petr Korda - instilled in him from the onset of his professional career. And it's one that helped him navigate through an 0-7 start to his tenure on the ATP Challenger Tour, as well as an 0-8 record in his first eight professional finals.
With a family pedigree that includes two sisters inside the current Top 20 of the LPGA Women's World Golf Rankings, a father that ascended to No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and a mother that peaked at No. 26 on the WTA Tour, expectations have always been high. But it's that support system that has kept Korda focused and always looking forward, even at his lowest point.
"I always knew I had the game to do this," Korda added. "It's just been about getting my body right and really having some good people around me that push me every single day. I know how hard it is to climb the rankings and always being in these tough places. Playing the Challenger level was never easy and I had to battle through that mentally. It really helped me.
"I've always been super tough and mentally strong and I try to go back and learn from those experiences. I never take a loss for granted and I always learn from it and build from it. At the time, I put my head down and grinded through it. I've come a long way."
The Korda men - Petr and Sebastian - are now part of an exclusive club, as one of just six father-son duos to appear in the Top 100 in the history of the FedEx ATP Rankings (since 1973). What started with Fred Stolle and Sandon Stolle in the 1970s and 1990s has since included Leif Johansson and Joachim Johansson, Phil Dent and Taylor Dent, Christophe Roger-Vasselin and Edouard Roger-Vasselin and most recently Christian Ruud and Casper Ruud.
Father-Son Duos In The Top 100 (since 1973)
|Petr Korda (No. 2)
||Sebastian Korda (No. 88)
|Christian Ruud (No. 39)
||Casper Ruud (No. 25)
|Christophe Roger-Vasselin (No. 29)
||Edouard Roger-Vasselin (No. 35)
|Phil Dent (No. 17)
||Taylor Dent (No. 21)
|Leif Johansson (No. 51)
||Joachim Johansson (No. 9)
|Fred Stolle (No. 30)
||Sandon Stolle (No. 50)
"I think the biggest thing was being in New York [for the 2020 US Open] and being around all the guys," Korda reflected. "They made me feel comfortable in my own skin, just being able to practise with them and learn from them. Understanding what they're doing and how they're doing it was a super big help for me. You can play professional tennis for 15-plus years if you're healthy and everything is going ok. It's a long road and a long journey for sure."
As he began to ascend the FedEx ATP Rankings following a stellar junior career that included a title at the 2018 Australian Open, Korda struggled to win a match on the Challenger circuit. From the hard courts of Indian Wells to the clay of Panama City, he would spend a full year developing his game and finding his confidence, before finally notching his first victory. As he says, cutting his teeth at the lower levels was an integral part of his maturation and growth. One year later, the Florida native was rewarded with his maiden title, as he watched his winless run in finals come to an triumphant conclusion on the indoor hard courts of Eckental, Germany.
Now, fresh off a first ATP Tour final appearance in Delray Beach and a second Challenger title in Quimper, France, Korda cannot be stopped. A run of 14 wins in 15 matches has him firmly cemented inside the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings.
"I started the week super stressed because my sister Jessica won her first tournament in 2-3 years last Sunday. I was watching from here and was stressing the whole time. But to see her lift the trophy was inspiring and she was saying, 'ok, it's your turn'. I had to step it up a little bit.
"I had it on my mind for the first few days this week, and it was just a relief when I knew I had finally made it. I had worked so hard for this. Since I first started playing tennis, one of my biggest goals was getting to the Top 100. It's a dream come true, but hopefully I can go a lot higher than this and keep enjoying the journey."