So, we are back after a small break. All the sleep deprivation finally took a toll on us after a week. Its tough to follow the Australian Open from North America. Its even tough when the tournament churns out some epic thrillers every other day. So our quarterfinal predictions went haywire but even the experts could not predict some of the results. That is exactly what makes this game so exciting. As Roger Federer rightly mentioned, stories are very important in sports. At this Australian Open we are lucky to witness many inspiring ones.
Hyeon Chung has grabbed many eyeballs with his superlative victories. He beat Novak Djokovic at his own game and earned praise from the Champion himself. The 21 year old from South Korea turned pro in 2014 but has since suffered set backs with multiple injuries. He made a big break through at the end of last year by winning the ATP Next Gen finals. He did not have an ideal run up to the Australian open. He lost in straight sets to Kyle Edmund at Brisbane and David Ferrer in Auckland. His first test at the open was against Alexander Zverev in the third round. When the match went into the fifth set, many opined that Sascha had the edge. But Chung came out all guns blazing in the fifth set. He was unfazed by the situation or the pressure. He was enjoying the game out there on the big stage.
He then had a dream match against Novak Djokovic. The Australian open is Djokovic’s turf. Although he is making a comeback from injury, there is no denying a fact that he was one of the title favorites. Chung already made it clear in various interviews that he tries to play like Djokovic, who was his idol growing up. The way he played against his idol was just outstanding. The occasion, the crowd, the pressure, the presence of the great man Rod Laver – nothing effected his performance. He was remarkably cool on the big points and was immaculate in defense. Its not easy to beat someone like Djokovic, who fights till the end, in three straight sets. By doing so, Chung was able to create shock waves across the tennis world. These are the kind of stories that inspire a whole generation of players in a country. My Korean colleague, who does not usually watch tennis, is now interested in Chung’s progress.
The young sensation faces the ultimate test of Roger Federer in the semifinals. Its a different situation now. He was relatively unknown, at least to people like my colleague, till that victory against Djokovic. Now there is expectation all around and he will be pushing himself to go one step further. It is not going to be easy against a seasoned champion like Federer. Although they have not played each other on tour, it takes only a few games for the Swiss to figure out a game plan. It will be an intriguing battle for sure. It will be a fairy tale if Chung makes it to the final, but even if he does not, he did enough to make his team and country proud. Now that is a good story.