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Korda of U.S. stops 2-time Australian Open runner-up Medvedev: Pegula and Gauff advance

American Sebastian Korda celebrates his victory over Daniil Medvedev
Sebastian Korda of the U.S. celebrates after defeating Daniil Medvedev of Russia in their third round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Sebastian Korda beat two-time runner-up Daniil Medvedev 7-6 (7), 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the Australian Open’s third round Friday night, the latest in a string of victories by young American men against top players at Melbourne Park.

Korda is a 22-year-old from Florida who is seeded 29th, is the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr and counts eight-time major champ Andre Agassi as a mentor.

Korda equaled his best showing at any Grand Slam tournament by reaching the round of 16.

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The No. 7-seeded Medvedev won the U.S. Open two years ago and made it to the final in Australia in 2021, when he lost to Novak Djokovic, and in 2022, when he lost to Rafael Nadal after holding a two-set lead. The Russian also was briefly ranked No. 1 last season.

This result comes on the heels of two other attention-grabbing victories by players from the U.S., whose men last won a Grand Slam title 20 years ago. On Wednesday, Mackenzie McDonald beat No. 1 seed Nadal. On Thursday, Jenson Brooksby beat No. 2 seed Casper Ruud. And now it was Korda’s turn to add his name to the list.

On this night in Rod Laver Arena, it was Korda who dictated most of the points, who put his shots right where he wanted them, who charged forward with verve and slick volleys. He even threw in the occasional drop shot, for good measure.

“I kind of knew what I had to do. I stuck with it, even when I was going up and down with the emotions,” Korda said.

And how would he describe that game plan?

“Just go for it,” he said with a laugh.

He compiled nearly twice as many winners as Medvedev, 50-28, and although there were plenty of unforced errors off his racket, too, that did not hurt the American.

Korda comes by his athleticism and competitive instincts honestly — and not just via Dad. His mother, Regina Rajchrtova, was a professional tennis player, too. His two sisters are current golf stars. The youngest of the bunch, the son known as “Sebi,” joked that, because he never has been ranked as high in his sport as any of those other four family members were in theirs, he is “definitely the worst athlete in the family so far.”

Sure didn’t look that way against Medvedev.

Korda, the 2018 junior champion in Australia, grabbed the lead in each set, breaking Medvedev in his first service game every time.

And with the match a fraction longer than 2 1/2 hours old, Korda was serving while ahead 4-3, 40-15 in the third set. So close to advancing, five points away from winning.

Right there, right then, is when Korda slipped up.

After Medvedev made it 40-30 with a forehand winner, Korda got a chance to hit a seemingly simple volley to take the game. But he missed, sending the ball too long. On the next point, he netted a forehand from the baseline, his sixth unforced error off that wing in the set — six more than Medvedev at that moment. A netted backhand then completed the gift-wrapped break, and one love hold later, Medvedev had accumulated eight consecutive points to go up 5-4.

What appeared to be a turning point, though, turned out just to be a blip.

Korda raced to a 6-1 lead in the closing tiebreaker and, while he again needed to settle down after some missed chances, this time he ended things with a forehand winner.

To get to his first Slam quarterfinal, Korda will need to get past No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz on Sunday. That day’s other men’s matches will be No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. No. 15 Jannik Sinner, No. 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Jiri Lehecka, and No. 18 Karen Khachanov vs. No. 31 Yoshihito Nishioka.

Nishioka was a 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-2 winner over McDonald, while another one of the eight U.S. men to reach the third round was sent home when Khachanov topped No. 16 Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9).

The American Tiafoe was up 6-1 in a fourth set tiebreaker and seemed destined to force a deciding fifth set, but he simply couldn’t close out Khachanov and was eliminated in heartbreaking fashion on his birthday.

The women’s upcoming fourth-round matches: No. 1 Iga Swiatek vs. No. 9 Elena Rybakina, No. 3 Jessica Pegula vs. No. 20 Barbora Krejcikova, No. 7 Coco Gauff vs. No. 17 Jelena Ostapenko, and No. 24 Victoria Azarenka against either No. 6 Maria Sakkari or Zhu Lin, who were playing each other Friday night.

As well as Pegula is playing tennis at the moment, dropping zero sets and just 11 games total along the way to Week 2, you might think she’d be completely pleased with how things are going. Ah, but Pegula is a self-described perfectionist. And so she gave herself a bit of a hard time about what happened late in the second set of her 6-0, 6-2 victory over Marta Kostyuk.

“I was annoyed,” Pegula said after the 65-minute contest.

By what, exactly?

Well, the 28-year-old from New York was cruising along, having won 10 of the first 11 games and serving with a 30-love lead, when she stumbled ever so slightly, ever so briefly. She missed three first serves in a row. She put a backhand into the net. She got lobbed. She double-faulted. She started muttering under her breath. She sent a backhand long to end an 11-stroke exchange. Add it up, and Pegula got broken there, her lead in the second set shrinking to 4-2. For three minutes, her play was less than ideal.

Oh, the horror.

“When I was younger, it came off as kind of a bad attitude. I’d get really negative or down on myself,” Pegula said, adding that she has worked on “not being so hard on myself during the matches.”

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For more coverage of the 2023 Australian Open, like this Korda article, visit amNY Sports

Jessica Pegula advances to the fourth round with Korda and other Americans
Jessica Pegula, left, of the U.S. is congratulated by Marta Kostyuk, right, of Ukraine following their third round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)