MIAMI – Nelly Korda keeps asking her parents if she can book their flight to watch her and her sister play in the LPGA’s first major of the year this week.
She wants them there. She’s equally thrilled that they’re not there yet. And if they don’t get there at all, that might be even better.
Let’s explain: The Korda sisters — Jessica and Nelly — have made a name for themselves in golf already, and now their younger brother Sebastian is now having his breakout week in the tennis world. It’ll make for a very busy Thursday for the family: Jessica and Nelly have the opening round of the ANA Inspiration in California, while Sebastian has the biggest match of his young career in the Miami Open quarterfinals.
The unexpectedly jammed schedule created a Korda conundrum: What are the parents to do?
“Probably they’re going to change their schedule a little bit and hopefully stay with me,” Sebastian Korda said.
Sounds like he’s getting his wish. For now, the plan is for Petr Korda and Regina Rajchrtová -- both were pro tennis players, Petr once reaching No. 2 in the world and winning the Australian Open, Regina a top-30 player who represented Czechoslovakia at the 1988 Seoul Olympics -- to stay in Miami, and keep an eye on their daughters from afar.
The sisters understand. “He’s having a really good run,” Nelly Korda said.
Jessica Korda is 28 and ranked No. 18 in the world; Nelly Korda, 22, is ranked No. 4 in the world. Sebastian Korda is the little brother, at least in terms of age — he’s 20, but at 6-foot-5, he’s certainly not little.
And his world ranking is getting up there as well; he was No. 224 at this time last year, No. 87 coming into Miami and is now assured of climbing into the 60s. He could even become the highest-ranked American man next week, if he wins the Miami title.
“Student of the game, he’s got size, he can do a lot of things, he has all the shots," said Frances Tiafoe, one of four American men to make the round of 16 in Miami this week. “I’m a fan of his. He’s a great guy. I want the best for him."
Korda towered over — and squeaked out a three-set win over — No. 5 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina in Tuesday’s round of 16 match in Miami, their height difference most evident when they shook hands when it was over. Schwartzman, listed at 5-foot-7, was highly complimentary after the match about the lone American man left in the Miami draw.
“He has very good timing, good serve, good movements,” Schwartzman said. “He looks like he’s played (on the) ATP Tour since many years ago. He’s doing great.”
In fairness, the family’s schedule rarely aligns. It’s hardly uncommon for the Korda kids to be playing on different continents at the same time, which means sleep cycles for their parents usually turn into a mess. And the siblings aren’t around each other that often either, but the sisters know they’ll be getting a text — often in all capital letters — from their brother on Thursday with some kind words to help them get through their round.
“He loves to pump up,” Nelly Korda said. “He’s definitely the hype man of the family. It’s kind of funny. We watched yesterday his match and that was really exciting and he’s playing well. He’s putting a lot of work in, and it’s so cool to see it pay off and it’s so cool to see him do well. Jess and I are definitely his biggest fans.”
That’s why they don’t mind those cross-country flight tickets for their parents aren’t needed quite yet. The LPGA tournament ends Sunday. So does the Miami Open. If the sisters play their way into final-round contention, if their little brother wins a couple more matches, then that could be a day like none other for the Kordas.
“Hopefully they stay there,” Nelly said.
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