Sebastian Korda idolised Rafael Nadal so much that he named his cat after the legendary lefty. So it was a special experience for the #NextGenATP to train with the Spanish superstar on Saturday evening ahead of the Citi Open. Nadal was left impressed.
“[His game has a] good physical look, good serve, good shots from the baseline. I think he’s a great guy, [a] complete player,” Nadal said. “He has a lot of things to do in the next years in our sport.”
The pair opened their ATP Head2Head series last year at Roland Garros, where Nadal defeated Korda in the fourth round. After the match, the lefty signed a shirt for the rising star, who greatly enjoyed the opportunity to play his hero.
“He’s my biggest idol. He’s one of the reasons I play tennis. Just watching him play, [he is an] unbelievable competitor,” Korda said at the time. “Just from him I have the never-give-up mentality. Whenever I’m on court, I try to be like him. Growing up, I named my cat Rafa after him. That says a lot about how much I love the guy.”
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Last year when they played in Paris, Korda was No. 213 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Now the American is World No. 47, one spot off his career-best mark. Nadal was not taken off guard by the 21-year-old’s ascent.
“I think I always believed since I saw him play that he is going to have the chance to be one of the best players of the world,” Nadal said. “Let’s see. It’s always the same. I think he has all the things that he needs to definitely be a top guy. Of course, things are not easy and you need to keep improving.
“But I definitely believe, if you ask me, [that[ he [is] going to be a great one.”
Nadal and Korda are on opposite halves of the Citi Open draw. The top-seeded Spaniard will open against Japanese lefty Yoshihito Nishioka or American wild card Jack Sock. Korda, seeded 12th, will play Canadian Vasek Pospisil or a qualifier/special exempt.