Four hours and 47 minutes of demanding labor was required by Sebastian Korda to squeak past Corentin Moutet Wednesday at the Australian Open in front of a vigorous Court 8 crowd, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-5, 7-6 (10-6).

There were plenty of moments to revel in. There was outstanding shot-making and digs out of considerable trouble from both sides; and even an audacious selfie pursuit from a fan just before the deciding 10-point tiebreaker began—whom Moutet blissfully obliged. Yet when asked by the moderator to pinpoint a standout moment at his start of his press conference, Korda gave a candidly relatable response.

“The end,” he laughed. “The end. Yeah, long match. Second ever five-setter. Definitely nice to win it.”

The 21-year-old won his tournament debut against Cameron Norrie in resounding fashion, dropping just seven games to the No. 12 seed, but 48 hours later, a meeting with another left-hander morphed into an all-out street fight. With both challengers encouraged by those watching, Korda finally raised his fist in triumph when the scoreline was confirmed in his favor.

“The crowd was so good. Basically from the first point of the match, they were chanting,” he said. “They were getting wild and it was really nice. It was a great atmosphere on a small court, which was really cool.”


Total points won: Korda 186, Moutet 194

Total points won: Korda 186, Moutet 194

Pablo Carreno Busta, who also survived in five sets over Tallon Griekspoor, awaits in the third round for an intriguing first-time matchup. The No. 19 seed’s countryman, Carlos Alcaraz, looms as a potential fourth-round opponent for both players if the 18-year-old manages to take down Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini.

Said Korda on the prospect facing Alcaraz in Melbourne, “It would be really cool. It's a long ways away. I'm really good friends with Carlos. He's a super nice kid. We played a good match in Milan and I'm sure in our careers we'll play plenty more.

“So it's always exciting, but it's a lot of work ahead for us to get there.”

Korda has good reason not to get ahead of himself, as a relinquished third-set advantage against Moutet nearly cost the son of 1998 Australian Open champion. Serving at 4-3, ad-in, Korda's forehand approach was caught by the net. Moutet would capitalize on the miscue, later commanding the tie-break with terrific control on his forehand—both in potent groundies and with a deft dropper—to suddenly seize a crucial lead.

Defense on that same wing gave the Frenchman the chance to serve out the contest at 5-4 in the fourth set, only to be undermined by consecutive backhand errors from 30-30. A poor off-balanced drop shot attempt, this time, ended his set in deflating fashion.

Animated and wrestling with cramps, Moutet still kept pace with the Bradenton, Fla. native in the decider, as both players struggled to convert windows of opportunity. At 3-4, 0-15, Moutet thought his crosscourt backhand was sailing long. Korda initially appeared to as well, but stuck out his racquet at the last possible moment for a successful block that traveled over the net. Despite his frustrations, the southpaw staved off four break points in total after falling behind 0-40.


Korda came forward a whopping 94 times, winning 66 trips to the net.

Korda came forward a whopping 94 times, winning 66 trips to the net.

At 5-5, it was Korda’s turn to claw out of a 0-40 hole at the line—heavily aided by locating his first-serve spots. A game later, Moutet used every ounce of his legs to stave off the first of two match points. Korda was left bewildered by the high backhand volley he misjudged, but shook off the disappointment to grab the first burst of momentum in the eventual sudden-death situation. Splendid redirection on his backhand up the line held up as a key shot late.

“He was constantly fighting with cramps or with the umpire, with the crowd,” assessed Korda, the 2018 boys' singles winner. “I think I handled it really well and just focused on myself and played really well towards the end.”

By the time his final forehand landed inside the court untouched, Korda bent over, offered the audience a semi-muted version of his family’s trademark scissor kick, smacked a ball into the stands and let out an elongated roar of pure relief. After an 84-minute final set, the finish line had been crossed.

It was the highlight of Korda’s day, but for those privileged to watch, the sentiment might be different. For it was a shame the brilliant battle had to end at all.