Tennis

Chung could end Big Four's dominance

South Korean sensation faces off against Swiss great in fans' 'final'

To some tennis fans, this would have been the final.

On one side is Roger Federer, record 19-time Grand Slam champion, whose 2017 form has carried through to this year.

On the other is a rising star, South Korea's Chung Hyeon, who has become the darling of this Australian Open after defeating six-time champion Novak Djokovic and world No. 4 Alexander Zverev en route to his first semi-final appearance.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN: MEN'S SINGLES SEMI-FINAL
CHUNG HYEON ROGER FEDERER

The 21-year-old, who is the youngest Grand Slam men's semi-finalist in eight years, has sparked a wave of tennis fever back in South Korea.

Sales of tennis gear doubled after Chung beat Tennys Sandgren in the Australian Open quarter-finals, becoming the first Korean to reach the last four at a Grand Slam.

Such is the hype generated that part of the pre-match talk has also been about how Chung could end the dominance of the Big Four - Federer, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Federer, meanwhile, is figuring out how he will approach this match - one of the tournament's most intriguing clashes in years.

On paper, it looks hugely one-sided. Federer, a veteran of 382 Slam showdowns over 20 years, up against an unseeded 21-year-old lining up for just his 17th match at a Major.

The 36-year-old Swiss defending champion is a master at working out his opponents and coming up with solutions.

Chung, whose 58th ranking is expected to fall, will be no different.

"I hardly know Chung. I've hardly spoken to him," Federer said after Czech-mating Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals.

"Right now, I couldn't tell you how I need to play him. One thing I know is I'm going to be playing aggressive.

"I don't know exactly how he returns and how he serves exactly. Those are two major aspects to the game. I have to figure that part out a little bit."

To beat (Novak Djokovic) here is one of the tough things to do in our sport. To close it out, that was mighty impressive. Roger Federer on Chung Hyeon

Federer and his team will comb through Chung's matches in Melbourne, but the five-time Australian Open champion has been impressed with the bespectacled youngster's run.

Said Federer, who is lining up for a record 14th Australian Open semi-final: "I mean, to beat (Djokovic) here is one of the tough things to do in our sport. To close it out, that was mighty impressive.

"To bounce back from a Novak match and just somehow get it done in the quarters, that's tough. That shows that he's had good composure, a great mindset."

Chung, who is also the lowest-ranked player in 14 years to get to the last four in Melbourne, speaks limited English but the Australian crowds have taken to him during his candid on-court interviews.

"I'm really surprised because I really don't know. I make semis, I beat like Sascha (Zverev), Novak, the other good players. I never playing in second week in Grand Slam, so I'm really surprised," Chung said.

"He just loves the environment," said Chung's coach Neville Godwin.

"He's got so much skill, so much talent and he's been in this situation so many times that it's really about keeping things very simple and control what you can do."

Chung could break into the top 30 after the tournament and could zoom as high as No. 10, if he wins it.

Not bad for someone who took up tennis only after he was diagnosed with astigmatism and a doctor recommended that peering at a green court would help his weak eyesight. - AFP, REUTERS

Tennis