Hyeon Chung became the first South Korean to reach a semi-final at a Grand Slam when he took out American Tennys Sandgren in what is turning out to be quite a remarkable Australian Open.
The Korean joins Kyle Edmund in the last four and the pair become the first unseeded players to make the semi-finals since 2008. In addition Chung becomes the lowest ranked player to reach the last four since 2004 as he continues to successfully develop the potential he showed by winning the NextGen Finals in Milan late last year.
In the last game at 40-0 up I was thinking what I had to do at the ceremony, something like that, and after the break points I was like, nothing to do with ceremony, but just keep playing, stay focused Hyeon Chung
Ranked 58, the 21-year-old closed out the match 6-4 7-6(5) 6-3 after two-hours 28-minutes on his sixth match point to complete his fourth match from five in Melbourne, without dropping a set.
Chung, who sensationally knocked out six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round after taking out Germany’s world No.4 Alexander Zverev in the previous round, showed some signs of nerves before sealing his well-earned victory.
With Sandgren throwing everything at him in the final 11-minute game the youngster, who is known a ‘The Professor’ thanks to the spectacles he wears, allowed himself to be distracted by worrying about the post-match ‘ceremony’.
“In the last game at 40-0 up I was thinking what I had to do at the ceremony, something like that, and after the break points I was like, nothing to do with ceremony, but just keep playing, stay focused,” Chung said on court in his halting English.
Like Edmund in the bottom half of the draw, Chung has nothing to fear when he faces either Roger Federer or Tomas Berdych next having already collected so far en route, the scalps of Novak Djokovic and Alex Zverev.
And when asked who he would prefer to meet he was very diplomatic: “It’s 50-50” he replied.
Meanwhile his vanquished opponent, the 97th ranked Sandgren, can return to his home in Tennessee reasonably satisfied with his performance during the past 10 days.
Considering he hadn’t won a match at grand slam level in his two previous outings at the majors, he did well to reach the quarter-finals which included victories over Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem.
The only thing which will no doubt mar his visit to Melbourne is the revelation of some his political views as discovered on social media. He deleted them when they were raised by the press before his quarter-final match, several of them referring to the ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy and Hilary Clinton’s supposed involvement in alleged satanic rituals.
Sandgren also recently retweeted white nationalist Nicholas Fuentes comments as well as following a number of right-wing figures on Twitter whilst also arguing with James Blake about racism questioning how the country could elect a black president twice!
In the quarter-final match both players, who rely on power and attrition, it was Chung who was the more focused to claim an early break to close out the first set in 37-minutes.
The Korean, who has styled his game on his hero Novak Djokovic, concentrated off his baseline to control the points well as he went ahead with another early break in the second.
Sandgren though, having refocused, worked his way back into the contest to recover the break in the fourth game and again in the eighth. Poised to take the second set and level the match, he was broken, forced into a forehand error.
Chung then showed some nerves in the latter stages of the third when the American served to stay in the match at 5-3 when he squandered three match points clinching it finally on his sixth when Sandgren hit a return over the baseline.