In less than one year, Sebastian Korda has evolved from a very raw, yet promising talent, into a full-fledged tour de force with seemingly limitless potential. When asked what clicked between now and the middle of last season, Korda responded, “I’m not sure, it’s just a process.”
After losing to his idol Rafael Nadal in the Roland Garros fourth round, Korda went right back to work, winning his last event of the season in Eckental, Germany. The 20-year-old has maintained his momentum in 2021, beginning the new year with three wins over solidified ATP talents in SoonWoo Kwon, Tommy Paul and John Isner. Into his first ever ATP semifinal, Korda will test his vastly improved game against the extremely tricky and unorthodox lefty, Cam Norrie.
The former TCU standout survived a topsy-turvy match against Frances Tiafoe, ultimately prevailing 6-0, 3-6, 6-4. Norrie’s mental toughness propelled him to the finish line, but he was lucky to survive, in part due to Tiafoe’s inability to convert a single break point (0/7) in the third set.
This will be the first encounter between Korda and Norrie, who both train at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, but have never shared the court together. As with any first encounter, there will be a feeling out period in the beginning as each player formulates a plan of attack. There’s no question that Korda is striking a better ball than Norrie, but the Brit excels in taking players far outside their comfort zone with his excellent lefty serve, and an impossibly flat backhand which he calls “the bunt." His forehand is heavy and looping, and so often appears to be sailing long before dropping on the baseline at the last second.
So far, Korda’s backhand has been the shot of the tournament. He’s drilling it with extreme power and accuracy.
But unlike his previous opponents, Norrie will surely deprive Korda of waist-high attackable backhands. Norrie keeps his backhand extremely low, so Korda will need to hit his slice well, like he’s been doing all tournament long.
For Korda to win this match, he must first defend Norrie’s exceptional lefty-slider serve, and then handle the Brit’s first ball, which will most likely be a low, sharp crosscourt backhand.
This play is Norrie’s bread and butter, and it’s not easy to deal with.
But Korda’s backhand return has been sensational. If he’s able to hit his backhand return deep and towards the middle, he will limit Norrie’s ability to create an angle. Against Isner, Korda struck his backhand return beautifully.
According to the oddsmakers, Korda is a slight -130 favorite. His left leg is heavily taped, but he insists it's "good to go." Norrie’s game will present Korda with a unique set of problems, but given the way he’s crushing the ball off both wings, he should be well equipped to handle the Brit. Norrie has been here before, but Korda is in the zone, and should advance to his first ever ATP final.
The Pick: Sebastian Korda
2021 pick record: 5-1