Jun 24, 2021

Sebastian Korda on Thriving in a Sporting Family

The up-and-coming tennis star stays grounded but motivated by his parents and sisters.
by Linda Murphyeditor

Do you come from a successful family? Do you and your siblings compete at absolutely everything?

If so then you might want to hear how you can thrive in such an environment, rather than getting bogged down by family rivalry.

Up and coming tennis star Sebastian Korda comes from a prolific family of sports people.

His father Petr won the Australian Open in 1998. His mother Regina was as also a top tennis player while older sisters Jessica and Nelly are both pro golfers.

So, what’s it like growing up in such a sporty household?

The 20-year-old explains, “I grew up in Bradenton, Florida. I was playing tennis, ice hockey, golf, Taekwondo, a little bit of soccer, if there was any type of sport I was all over it. My parents were super big into keeping me and both my sisters active, letting us learn new skills as young kids and enjoy the stuff we wanted to try.”

Sebastian lives and breathes sport so visiting the adidas World of Sports and sitting with Adi Dassler was a real treat.Sebastian lives and breathes sport so visiting the adidas World of Sports and sitting with Adi Dassler was a real treat.

Slow and steady wins the race

Sebastian Korda didn’t take the usual route to the ATP Tour. Having two ex-pros as parents meant they knew the pitfalls, as well as the benefits of life as a professional player.

“I think my parents did a really good job with that because I went to a normal high school, I graduated and I really lived a normal childhood. Compared to some athletes who start their sport super early and start traveling around the world when they were 12, 13, 14 years old. I didn’t play my first tournament outside of Florida until I was 15 years old. It was a different way of growing up to the typical tennis player. I’m thankful for that because I have friends that don’t play sports and do normal jobs. I’m really grateful for the path my parents chose for me.”

Taking advice from family can sometimes be difficult, but if they’re in the same business they can give you a perspective others don’t have.

“My parents’ approach is that there’s no rush at all. You can play tennis until you’re 35-40 years old. You have 15 years ahead of you if you’re healthy and mentally well. You’ve just got to stay sane and keep enjoying it.

“You’re 20 years old and at the top of the world, what can you do next? If you rush into it then where do you go after that? Some people burn out from it because they started playing tennis when they were four or five years old, and they’ve already been playing for almost 15 years. It can really get in your head.”

Learn from those you know best 

Not only does Sebastian Korda have parents who know all about life on tour, his older sisters are also professional athletes. And it’s that knowledge and experience that he soaks up to make him a better player.

“It’s something really cool and something really special to share a passion for a sport, and we know how hard it is to get to the top. We all know the sacrifices that we have to make to get there and it’s something that we all share and it’s something that’s a big positive.”

Nelly Korda adds Sebastian to the family picture with her phone after success in Orlando Florida in February 2021. ©Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
Sibling support between Nelly, Jessica and Sebastian pushes all three to be their best. ©Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

“My older sister is like a second mom to me, and my other sister Nelly, she’s my best friend. She’s two years older than I am. My sisters do compete with one another and there is certainly a little sibling rivalry there. But it spurs us all on. At the beginning of the year, my sister Jessica won the first tournament of the year, then the following week I won my first title of the year, and then we were just joking, “Come on, you’ve got it, now it’s your turn.” The following week Nelly won her first tournament of the year. It was a great month for us, it was awesome.”

Be guided by the sat nav, but stay in the driving seat 

Can things ever get a little too familiar for Sebastian Korda? He assures me his dad knows when to wear his coach’s hat and when to take it off, having also supported Jessica on tour when she turned pro. 

“My dad does a really good job of putting aside his role of being a dad. He’s my coach on the tennis court, and then once we’re off the court, he’s my dad and he’s super supportive. He lets me take the decisions that I want to make – whether they’re good or bad – and he supports them. Both my parents are always there. If I fall down and make a mistake, they’re always there to pick me up and put me back in the right direction. My parents are kind of like the navigation in a car and my sisters and I are the ones driving it.” 

"My parents are kind of like the navigation in a car and my sisters and I are the ones driving it."

Sebastian KordaAmerican tennis player

Sebastian has his goals clear and his sat nav on and ready to embrace the next on-court challenge. ©Mark Brown/Getty ImagesSebastian has his goals clear and his sat nav on and ready to embrace the next on-court challenge. ©Mark Brown/Getty Images

So far Sebastian Korda has followed the sat nav well and done a good job in driving to his destination. He writes his goals for the year as notes in his phone. “I started the year 118 in the world and now I’m 62, but my goal is to finish the year in the top 50. (Sebastian reached 50 in the ATP Ranking on May 31, 2021) I like to have a yearly goal and I always want to be a lot better than where I am today. My goals were completely different to my parents’ goals. They didn’t think I’d be in the position that I am now so soon. They thought it would take a couple more years. But planning your goals and working for something is something big in sports. It’s all about how you see it and how you want it.”

"I like to have a yearly goal and I always want to be lot better than where I am today."

Sebastian KordaAmerican tennis player