Rising American Sebastian Korda showed his respect for former world No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after playing the Frenchman in the Montpellier first round on Monday.
Korda, who won the Quimper Challenger in late-January, made a convincing start to his Montpellier campaign as he saw off Tsonga 6-4 6-2.
Tsonga, now ranked at No. 66 in the world, played his last tournament of the 2020 season at the Australian Open and on Monday he kicked off his 2021 season.
“It was definitely special [to play Tsonga], I grew up watching him my whole life,” Korda said in his on-court interview, per the ATP website. “To get the chance to be able to play against him was an honour for me. I hope he can stay healthy and keep playing tennis… He’s such an incredible entertainer and an incredible person.”
Korda dominated the match
Korda claimed the first break of the match in the ninth game of the first set, before serving out for the opener a game later.
Tsonga made a solid start to the second set as he led 2-1 after the opening three games but then Korda earned back-to-back breaks to seal a straight-set win.
“I just tried to stay focussed and take care of my side of the court. I know he hasn’t played tennis in 14 months [or so], so it definitely wasn’t easy for him,” Korda said. “I’m super happy with the way I played.”
World No. 92 Korda plays next against Italian Lorenzo Sonego, who beat Frenchman Hugo Gaston in three sets to progress in Montpellier.
Ahead of the matchup, Korda insists he won’t be taking Sonego for granted when they meet.
“He has a lot of firepower, so it’s going to be a fun match for sure,” Korda said. “Hopefully we can put on a good show next time we play.”
Korda defeated former world No. 5 Tsonga in straight sets on Monday.