Dec/19

26

People Forget How Close Petr Korda Was To No. 1 Ranking

Tennis enthusiasts remember many of the players who never won a Grand Slam singles title despite coming very, very close to tennis immortality. Todd Martin, Guillermo Coria, Cedric Pioline, Kei Nishikori, Marcelo Rios, Mariano Puerta, Mark Philippoussis, Mal Washington, Rainer Schuettler, Arnaud Clement, lost in their major finals.

A forgotten near historic achievement that is never talked about by experts involves a no. 2 ranked who blew four chances to be world no. 1.

At four tournaments in 1998, the left-handed 30-year-old Korda had the ATP world no. 1 ranking in his grasp, but he lost all four of his matches to become the kingpin of the ATP.

Korda was just one set away from no. 1 but he lost in the quarterfinals of Antwerp to Karol Kucera 63 46 26.

Korda lost in London to Cedric Pioline 36 36 but no. 1 was not on the line.

The top ranking was on the line the next tournament in Indian Wells. Korda beat Tommy Haas 75 62 and Scott Draper 63 36 60, to set up the pressure match vs Marcelo Rios. If Korda beat Rios, he would unseat Pete Sampras as the ATP’s top ranked player. But Rios trounced Korda 64 62 in the quarterfinals, a measure of revenge for Rios who Korda beat for the Australian Open title in January.

Korda still had two more opportunities to be no. 1. In Miami, Korda defeated Francisco Clavet and Ramon Delgado to set up a showdown with Tim Henman for no. 1. Again Korda failed, losing 64 64 to the Brit in the round of 16. Korda defeated Henman two months earlier in Doha, 75 46 64.

There would be one more chance for Korda. It came in the next tourament in Monte Carlo. By now Marcelo Rios was no. 1 after having won Miami vs Andre Agassi. In Monaco, Korda beat Wayne Ferreira in straight sets and Albert Costa 57 64 64 to set up his fourth and final shot to be world no. 1. Standing in his way was Richard Krajicek, ranked 13 in the world. Korda won the first set 64 but then failed in the tense second set tiebreaker 7-1. In the third set, Krajicek steamrolled Korda 6-1.

From there, Korda posted sub-standard results. He lost to Slava Dosedel in Prague. He lost to Hicham Arazi in Rome. He lost first round in Roland Garros to Mariano Zabaleta 06 26 63 64 36 and dropped to 3 in the world. He lost to Paul Haarhuis in Halle.

At Wimbledon he beat four players outside the top 50 but then lost to Henman again in the quarterfinal 36 46 26. Korda tested positive for an illegal performance enhancing drug steroid called nandrolone after this match.

This violation was publicly revealed in December 1998. At the time, Korda was stripped of the ranking points and prize money that he had won at 1998 Wimbledon, but was not banned from the sport. The ITF soon announced that it felt that it had made a mistake in not banning Korda, and would be seeking to appeal against its own decision not to ban Korda from tennis competition. London’s High Court ruled in late January 1999 that the ITF could not appeal against its own initial decision, but Korda was later suspended from tennis for twelve months from September 1999 and stripped of the prize money and ranking points that he had won since July 1998 (however the suspension was insignificant because Korda had retired after failing to qualify for 1999 Wimbledon, losing to British journeyman Danny Sapsford in a qualifying match). Korda did resume his career later as he did compete in the Prague Challenger in December 2000 (singles) and the  Prosteljov Challenger in both 2001 and 2005 (both in doubles).

It could be said that Petr Korda holds a dubious, rare, distinction in pro tennis. He came the closest to being ATP world no. 1, by a margin of just a single tiebreaker.

140 comments

  • Hartt · December 29, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    Andrew, I found this mini series on Christian Harrison quite interesting. I did not know much about him, and it is much more interesting to read new stuff rather than the 500th article on the Big 3.

  • Andrew Miller · December 29, 2019 at 4:02 pm

    Hartt, I am glad, I have Big Three fatigue. No offense to any of them including the Spaniard (who is an amazing man and player, but who I wish respected the rules of the game a little more) – as a fan of the sport like you I have noticed that everyone, including the players themselves, has run out of words to describe their earth-shattering hall of fame careers. It’s at a point where we say “how many times have we seen X player do this” or “he’s really improved his backhand” (since the last time he improved it so that it was the best on tour eleven years ago?) – which we have already said so many years in a row that we forget. It’s exhausting and I hope I stick with this, I can’t cheer for anyone of them any more. I think Djokovic’s statement did it for me, when he said Federer inspires HIM to reach for MORE, even as he has 16 slams to his name, which few years ago would have been the most in the history of the sport.

    Thanks also for chiming in on Christian Harrison. There are of course many promising players on tour and have been for such a long time. I am not sure how many are like him – he was to my eye “the real deal” (fearless, cracked returns, thrived on momentum, enjoyed the big stage and any court, anywhere). Maybe Bellis is like this but she experienced a lot greater success (however fleeting) while Christian Harrison was injured like clockwork within months of every return he’s made.

    As before though I do not want to turn TP into a forum on the rise and fall and rise and fall of one tennis family. The Murrays have often blamed the UK for the lower profile career of Jamie Murray, but I don’t think he’s ever been the same caliber of player as his younger brother or the Murrays of other siblings on tour such as the Zverev brothers, the McEnroes, etc. But Christian Harrison to my eye was every bit the equal of his brother (and better – less volatile, more of a gamer, produced huge power for his small frame). But every comeback came with an expiration date.

    It seems to me that not every player is meant to have a complete career on tour. It’s easy to point fingers as to culprits, but when all is said and done I think we have to at some point chalk it up to: “unlucky” rather than “unwise”.

  • Andrew Miller · December 29, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    Guess charlatans come in all forms of tennis coach, parent as coach, player as coach, guru as coach, marketer as coach. So many, many ways to destroy a player. So few ways to help them make their way in a complicated sport.

    The Russians I believe at the spartak club in Moscow have a healthier approach to the game. That said I have no idea what their odds look like – whether for every Rublev you have ten kids with their arms in casts etc. I like what I had read about their development program previously, where they didn’t even hit balls on first learning the sport (unlike the first lesson any kid has in the U.S. where kids are so eager to hit a ball that then then hit each other soon enough).

    As a good coach once said, “tennis can be dangerous”.

  • Hartt · December 29, 2019 at 5:57 pm

    It must be difficult to be a good tennis coach. The top ones talk about how they have to adapt to the personalities of different players, and deliver their message in a way that the player will be receptive to hearing it. So a good coach must understand people as well as knowing about forehands and backhands.

  • Hartt · December 29, 2019 at 6:07 pm

    The siblings I find fascinating are the Pliskova sisters. Despite being identical twins, Karolina has been so much more successful, with 15 WTA titles and a current ranking of No.2. Kristyna has 1 WTA title and is ranked No.67. What explains such a big difference?

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 29, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    Big disparity in Radwanska sisters results, both won junior Wimbledon but Aga was tougher mentally, Ula was talented by wacky mentally. Couldn’t control her emotions. Actually Ula is out there still grinding.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 29, 2019 at 6:45 pm

    CH was pushed to play those ATP matches with a bad injury. It was worse than anyone imagined. Playing on it compounded the injury to the point he missed over two years of play. Tough luck, bad judgement, bad decision. Might have ruined his career.

  • Jon King · December 29, 2019 at 6:54 pm

    It becomes a mounting of the evidence. People witnessed how dad Harrison pushed his kid to play more and through pain unlike his approach to other boys he coached.

    Scoop also hears he played through injury as a pro and it cost him.

    At some point the same behavior over a long time is enough to surmise that the playing through injury thing was ingrained from a young age, and it not done by everyone.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 29, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    Apology not accepted, because you don’t need to apologize for discussing Christian Harrison ) Where did you see that Vilas quote about Ch? That is a major compliment. But it’s a lot of pressure and expectation to put on a ten year old kid. He must have been that impressive.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 29, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    C Harrison also hit with McEnroe at US Open when he was about 14 and held his own. I saw some of it on P courts before Johnny Mac went to the tv booth for the Ashe night matches. CH had a slight, thin, boyish physique that could not handle the pro tennis wear and tear. He got bigger and stronger during the two year hiatus. Great player, great engine but the body failed him. Hampton, Baker, Austin, Jaeger, Kuerten, Rafter, Rios suffered similar fates.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 29, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    Hartt, Interesting quote: “coaches are slaves to the players.”

  • Andrew Miller · December 29, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    Scoop, as told to Boston Globe, the Vilas second hand comment on Christian Harrison. As early as this 2009 or so article young Harrison had a broken body but a great tennis attitude. I have not been able to find verbatim quote.

    http://archive.boston.com/sports/other_sports/tennis/articles/2009/05/30/small_wonder/

    I respect what you and Jon are saying about Harrison the Elder aka Dad, who I remember Ryan Harrison was barking during one of his bad spells in late 2015 I think. Ryan Harrison had been upset.

    I also get some tennis parents are good. From my observations outside of the sport I believe there’s always a problem and I expect as much from Osaka and her dad. But the Osakas are intelligent and know this.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 29, 2019 at 10:55 pm

    Pat Harrison has created two ATP pros, he’s done a fine job. A lot better than the vast majority of tennis parent coaches. Two ATP pros, made US Open doubles QF together. But a lot more was expected. Still time, don’t count em out yet. Mistakes were made and will be made in future. Tough business to succeed in. Plenty of broken dreams on the tennis boulevard.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 29, 2019 at 11:04 pm

    Thanks for that BG article, that’s major press for a 14 year old. Harrison looks 9 or 10 in that photo. It reminds me of that kid Jan Silva, the goal to go pro at such a young age is tough for a kid. Is it really his decision?

  • catherine · December 30, 2019 at 1:13 am

    Nishikori has w/drawn from the ATP Cup and AO. At the age of 30 it’s not looking good for a comeback from his elbow injury.

  • Jon King · December 30, 2019 at 1:51 am

    Wow Scoop, Jan Silva, had not thought about that story in a while. Another Patrick Mouratoglou special.

    For those who do not know, Jan’s dad was an uber tennis dad and by age 5, Jan was on videos rallying. Baghdatis saw him and alerted Mourataglou who immediately smelled a story to get press for his academy. The family sold their California house and moved to France to train at Patrick’s academy. They took their other kids out of school and brought them to France too.

    Soon the parents got divorced, they moved back to US, and Jan played some local tournaments, quit tennis a few times, came back to tennis and is playing tournaments again as a high school senior.

    Gauff is not Patrick’s first rodeo of the hype train.

  • Jon King · December 30, 2019 at 2:43 am

    If you want to get an idea of the wear and tear that accumulates in junior tennis, look at this You Tube video at the 2:45 mark. This is pretty much what we have going on at 100s of courts each day down here.

    Notice tennis dad on the right hand side, watching every move. The kids usually have multiple coaches so this is just one of the sessions this kid will do in a day. 4-5-6 hours per day of work from this age.

    Imagine the wear and tear on the body that accumulates through the years. Now you can see the genesis of the injuries that show themselves in the older juniors and pro players.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ppQqsfJ1PA

  • catherine · December 30, 2019 at 3:10 am

    Hartt – going back to your comment on the Pliskovas, as I understand it identical twins do have genetic differences, so the fact that Karolina is better at tennis can be explained by her genetic makeup giving her an advantage in some way.

    Of course genes, DNA etc are all very complicated and I’d probably look at Wikipedia for more information, but I have met identical twins who were 99% alike but differed in abilities, ie not at the same level.

  • catherine · December 30, 2019 at 5:33 am

    Jon – I can’t understand the Spanish but apart from one the comments in English about that video seemed to be approving. BTW – I wonder how many tennis academies there are in Florida ?

    It’s quite recent so I’d be interested to see more responses in time. Looks pretty brutal to me.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 30, 2019 at 6:49 am

    Sources tell me Mouratoglou pays Serena to pose as her coach. Tsitsipas and Gauff also paid to promote that illusion.

  • Hartt · December 30, 2019 at 7:00 am

    I read the BG article on Christian Harrison and then googled him. It made for sad reading. Some of the entries, such as Wiki, have not been updated in 2 years or more. But the ATP site has some info. At age 25 he is ranked No.664 and has a career win-loss of 2-6. He was defeated in the recent Challenger tourneys he played in

  • Hartt · December 30, 2019 at 7:07 am

    Pressed the wrong button. I was going to say that Christian’s last tourney this season was the Drummondville Challenger back in March, where he lost his first match. He has made under $380,000 in prize $ in his career to date.

  • catherine · December 30, 2019 at 8:14 am

    Scoop – Patrick’s going to have a hard time coaching all those players at once in 2020 unless he clones himself.

  • Hartt · December 30, 2019 at 8:33 am

    Patrick does not lack for ego, so of course he can do it! 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 30, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Hartt, Harrison played doubles in May in Portugal.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 30, 2019 at 8:57 am

    Patrick can just run around to sit and watch Tsitsipas, Gauff and Serena play in AO, and throw out the occasional hand signals that no players look for. That’s an easy schedule, I know many media who work a lot harder than that 🙂

  • Jon King · December 30, 2019 at 9:27 am

    catherine, lots and lots of tennis academies down here of all sizes. Sometimes it seems like one at every park and resort.

    Its a shame to see that little girl doing that much intense movement on hard courts. We use either Har Tru clay or fitness on a grass sports fields as much as possible.

    By the way, you see the intensity of tennis dad watching in the video? Now imagine tournaments. Literally dozens of dads just like that, pacing back and forth at the tournament entry desk. Then pacing back and forth around the courts while the girls play. Its quite a scene down here on the weekends!

  • Jon King · December 30, 2019 at 9:44 am

    Scoop, running from court to court is something Patrick will have no trouble doing. He literally does his jogging around the outside of the courts during practice while Serena hits with a hitting partner.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 30, 2019 at 10:28 am

    Guess I will have to ask Serena in a press conference if the rumors are true Patrick pays her for the privilege of the illusion of coaching her. As for number of academies…off the top of my head, Inspiration, Longwood Run, Kozlov, McEnroe, Nadal, IMG, Tennium, Bill Adams, Garden State, Solomon, Celsius, Club Med, Evert, Sanchez Casal, Gildemeister, Todd Widom, Bogomolov, Phil and Taylor Dent, not to mention all the small ones. Haven’t even touched on ATL, Calif, TX, South Carolina.

  • Andrew Miller · December 30, 2019 at 10:55 am

    Ask Serena Williams if she’d like a copy of your book Scoop! That’s way better than anything about an academy owner.

    Does every player you’ve written about have a copy of their book now?

  • Andrew Miller · December 30, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Nishikori – tough break again. He’s too injured. He was shut out by the big guys and by his injury-plagued career.

  • Hartt · December 30, 2019 at 11:03 am

    Kei said he will next play the New York tourney (in February). Opelka won it last year, defeating Canuck Brayden Schnur in the final. It did not sound like the tourney got good attendance, so if Kei is able to play that should help the tourney.

    Kei is such an appealing player that it is a shame that injuries have had such a big impact on his career. Jose Morgado tweeted that he will lose 630 points in February, and will drop out of the top 20.

  • Jon King · December 30, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    More academies that come to mind…Pro World, Rick Macci, Nick Saviano, Van Der Meer, Smith Stearns, Johan Kreik, Bill Clark.

  • Jon King · December 30, 2019 at 4:57 pm

    Also Saddlebrook is a pretty big academy.

  • Andrew Miller · December 30, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    I like Jose Morgado!

  • Andrew Miller · December 30, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    Andy Murray: out until post Aussie Open. Another setback. I think Murray is retiring soon after the Olympics, but Murray of course will do so when he feels like it.

  • Hartt · December 30, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    Andrew, I like Jose Morgado as well. I usually check his twitter each day because he often has up-to-date info.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 30, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    I like Jose too, loves the sport and follows it closely. Good source of latest info.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 30, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Which top pros were developed and produced exclusively by academies?

  • Jeff · January 8, 2020 at 1:44 am

    I accept your apology.

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