Photograph: Getty Images
Day six at Roland Garros has thrown up some truly popcorn-worthy matches, but none more so than the clash between Sebastian Korda and Carlos Alcaraz.
The young American and the current ‘it’ man in tennis, Alcaraz, will take centre stage under the lights on Court Philippe Chatrier as the marquee match of the day.
To the forward thinker, this isn’t a surprise as this clash has the potential to shape the next decade and more of men’s tennis. It seems the organisers at Roland Garros feel the same.
The day features several entertaining clashes including:
(5) Rafael Nadal v (26) Botic van de Zandschlup
(18) Grigor Dimitrov v (15) Diego Schwartzman
(10) Cameron Norrie v (21) Karen Khachanov
(3) Alexander Zverev v Brandon Nakashima
Yet, it's the battle of the two rising stars that get the prime slot, and that’s how it should be.
Tennis has been crying out for a new generation of players to announce themselves and take over the mantle left by Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Nadal.
This has come in bits and pieces with the rise of the Daniil Medvedev - Stefanos Tsitsipas era, but they have not progressed as much as was forecast.
In saying that, both Medvedev and Tsitsipas are seriously talented players who are clearly the best of their generation and will be battling each other for years to come. Their brewing rivalry will be one for the ages, despite its ill-nature.
The impending question is, will they be caught and overtaken by the next generation? And will it be by Korda and Alcaraz?
A fairly reasonable statement would be that 19-year-old Alcaraz has already overtaken them. In fact, he might’ve overtaken everyone. It’s not a foolish remark to suggest that he’s the best player in the world right now.
Despite a scare against Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round, Alcaraz is still at short odds to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires as a teenager - just as his idol did 17 years ago.
The comparisons between Alcaraz and Nadal are already well documented, but one thing the young Spaniard requires to reach the heights of Nadal is a rival to push him.
Korda is one of the best placed to be that rival.
The son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda and former world No. 26 Regina Rajchrtova has the genes and support behind him to be a success.
Although not reaching the early heights of Alcaraz, the 21-year-old has quietly been building an impressive resume and shapes as America’s next men’s champion.
Korda announced himself to the world at the 2020 edition of Roland Garros where, as a teenager, he made it all the way through qualifying and into the fourth round before succumbing to eventual champion Nadal.
His run was all the more exciting for American fans considering the States’ lack of success on the red dirt of Europe.
Korda’s one and only title came in 2021 on the clay at the Emilia Romagna Open, becoming the first American to win a title on European soil in 11 years. Later in the season, Korda reached the fourth round at Wimbledon - joining Federer, Nadal and Djokovic as players to reach the fourth round of Wimbledon and Roland Garros before their 21st birthday.
Korda has the height, serve, groundstrokes and all-court ability to be a top player and will battle it out with Alcaraz for years to come. The pair’s upcoming clash will be their third in the past seven months, with the ledger squared at a win apiece.
Alcaraz took the first clash in the final at the 2021 Next Gen ATP Finals, winning 4-3, 4-2, 4-2 in the altered format.
Korda won their most recent outing in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters in April, defeating the Spaniard 7-6(2), 6-7(5), 6-3 in a match lasting over three hours.
That match has been the only loss Alcaraz has incurred on clay this season, going 17-1 on his way to three titles in Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona and Madrid.
As for their next match? It could go either way.
Alcaraz will go in as the favourite and rightly so, but how will he respond following the gruelling five-set match with Ramos-Vinolas?
Korda has spent less time on court and will fancy his chances of earning back-to-back victories, but he still faces the sternest test in world tennis right now.
Which way will it fall? Hard to say.
One thing that is for sure is that we’ll be seeing many more battles between these two on the big stage, and you better believe there will be silverware involved.