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Australian Open 2023: Korda credits 'towel' & crowd for epic win over Hurkacz to reach 1st Grand Slam QF

Sebastian Korda advanced to the last eight at a Grand Slam for the first time with a back-and-forth 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(10-7) victory against Hubert Hurkacz at the Australian Open 2023 on Sunday.

tennis Australian Open 2023: Korda credits 'towel' & crowd for epic win over Hurkacz to reach 1st Grand Slam quarterfinals snt
First Published Jan 22, 2023, 1:44 PM IST

The most significant victory of Sebastian Korda's career came on Sunday when he overcame Hubert Hurkacz, the 10th seed, in five intense sets to go to the Australian Open 2023 quarterfinals.

With a back-and-forth triumph over the Polish star, the 29th seed reached the final eight at a Grand Slam for the first time, winning 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(10-7) in the process. Korda will play Karen Khachanov for a place in the semi-finals.

"Awesome. I couldn't have done it without you guys. You guys pushed me through," Korda told the crowd. "I wasn't feeling too much energy towards the fourth and the fifth, but you guys really picked me up and without you guys I don't think it would have been possible today, so thank you!"

Daniil Medvedev, a two-time Australian Open finalist, was eliminated by the American in the third round after an almost faultless straight-sets performance. He followed up the victory by giving a challenging effort inside Rod Laver Arena against the Wimbledon semifinalist from 2021.

"It was difficult but I'm very happy with the way I kind of just stayed down, kept going through it," he said.

Since Andy Roddick previously achieved the feat in 2010, Korda is the third American to advance to the season's first Grand Slam quarterfinals. Since then, Frances Tiafoe and Tennys Sandgren have both advanced to the final eight.

A first-ever spot in the Australian Open quarterfinals was on the line for both men in the finale, which was dramatic after four largely uncomplicated sets. Radek Stepanek, Korda's coach and older brother to him, was out of his seat after almost every point in the fifth set, which clearly indicated the tenseness in the player's box. The Czech kept his opponent motivated and made an effort to include the crowd occasionally during the game.

At 5-5, Hurkacz won two break points. The Pole would have served to advance to the quarterfinals if he had converted. However, Korda played with steely grit to avoid danger.

There were numerous shifts of momentum throughout the crucial tie-break. Korda won six straight points during one stretch but then saw his advantage disappear. He maintained composure, however, and finished his victory with a flawless backhand passing shot up the line.

"[I] had a little superstition with the towel. The towel got me through it," Korda said, eliciting laughter from the crowd. "Every time I went to the towel, I won the point, so I just kept going to it."

Although Hurkacz won rallies of 0-4 shots by a score of 93-84, Korda is known for his aggressive style. The American won a 62-51 advantage in points with more than four shots. Three times, each man broke the serve.

Next, against Khachanov, Korda will attempt to win his third straight match in the ATP Head2Head series (Korda leads the series 2-1). At Wimbledon in 2021, Khachanov prevailed 10-8 in the fifth set of their most famous match, which featured 19 service breaks.

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