#NextGenATP Champion Chung Makes History
Hyeon Chung became the first South Korean player in history to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final after beating six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic 7-6(4), 7-5, 7-6(3) at the Australian Open on Monday.
Chung, who won the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals last year, let slip 4-0, 4-1 and 3-1 leads in the first, second and third sets respectively before ultimately getting the better of Djokovic, who was playing his first tournament since The 2017 Championships at Wimbledon after struggling with a right elbow injury.
Asked to describe what the win over Djokovic meant to him, and his country, Chung shared his emotions. “Novak (Djokovic), Roger (Federer) and Rafa (Nadal) are my role models, my idols. I'm just happy to play with Novak again. I'm just honoured to see him again on the tour. Today my dreams come true. [The win is a] victory for my country, I think tennis [is] coming up after this."
The South Korean, now coached by 2017 Coach of the Year Neville Godwin, will meet Tennys Sandgren for a place in the semi-finals after the American upset fifth seed Dominic Thiem 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-7(7), 6-3. Chung won their only previous encounter just two weeks ago in Auckland to lead their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 1-0.
“He's a really good player,” said Chung. “I think he made [his] first quarter-final… like me. I'm just ready for him. I played him before one time. We know how to play each other. I have to be ready.”
Watch Chung Interview From Brisbane 2018
Chung had led 4-0 in the opening set, capitalising on a string of Djokovic errors before the former World No. 1 inched his way back into contention with two breaks of serve to force a first set tie-break. The South Korean won three points in succession after the change of ends to lead 6/3 and forced Djokovic into a forehand error to take a one-set lead.
The winner of last year's 21-and-under event in Milan saved four break points in the opening game of the second set to deny Djokovic an immediate boost of confidence before breaking with a pinpoint backhand passing shot to lead 2-0. The 12-time Grand Slam champion found himself facing a break point to trail by a set and 1-5, but rallied, winning 11 of the next 13 points to level proceedings at 4-4. Another tie-break loomed as Djokovic served at 5-6 (40/30), but a double fault followed by errors - on both the backhand and forehand wings - gave Chung a two-sets-to-love advantage.
Chung’s experiences at the Fiera Milano last November were proving to be the perfect springboard for success early in 2018. Post-match, the undefeated champion looked back on the tournament and the belief it gave him going into the 2018 season. "I really had a good finish [to] the season after Milan,” said Chung. “[It meant] I could start, really happy, this season with confidence and comfort.”
The World No. 58 charged to a 3-1 lead in the third set, dampening Djokovic’s hopes of a fifth career comeback from two sets down, to move to within three games of a third consecutive win over Top 20 opposition. But it would not be that simple, as Djokovic once again reeled in his opponent to bring the set back on equal terms at 3-3 before taking the match to a second tie-break.
From there, a rifled Chung forehand and a Djokovic backhand error opened up a 3/0 lead for the South Korean before the 30-year-old raced back with two points against serve of his own. Chung’s defence extracted a forehand error to move back ahead at 4/3 and, from that point, he raced to a landmark victory. Relying on some magnificent court coverage, Chung took three of the next four points to win the match as Djokovic fired a backhand wide into the tramlines.
Twelve months ago, Djokovic lost to World No. 117 Denis Istomin in the second round.