Alexander Zverev decided not to play last year’s inaugural NextGen finals in Milan as he had qualified for the senior ATP Masters Final at the O2 in London, so the battle for the ‘age group’ between the 20-year-old German and the NextGen champion, Hyeon Chung, was an intriguing third round match-up in Melbourne.
As Zverev is ranked fourth in the world, his loss to Chung who is a year older, was a shock as he became the highest ranked player of the men’s draw to be ousted from this year’s Australian Open.
It was a really tough match, I was just trying to play 100 percent out there Hyeon Chung
Chung in contrast, proved he had the mentality to make the top while his opponent still has to prove he has the mentality to conquer the world having lost another five-setter and failed to hold his focus to slump out of the year’s first grand slam, 5-7 7-6 2-6 6-3 6-0.
He allowed himself to be distracted in the fourth set when he demanded the floodlights to be switched on.
The time was 6.10pm in Australia and the light seemed fine but it wasn’t as far as the German was concerned.
He said to the umpire: “It doesn’t take that long to turn on a switch. What is this? For the last four games I’ve asked you to turn on the lights because it’s dark.”
While the official seemed to be sympathetic he refused the request which left Zverev fuming and alienated the crowd against him, booing him when he claimed he couldn’t see the ball.
Later in the fifth, after going down a double break, he released his frustration by demolishing his racket, smashing it into the ground, following up that action by stamping on it. Not unsurprisingly, he received a code violation for racket abuse.
Meanwhile Chung kept his focus having fought his way back into the match whenever he fell behind.
Zverev snatched a hard-fought opening set only for Chung to level in the second by reeling off five straight points in the tiebreak. The German struck back in the third aided by a crucial error from the South Korean, a double fault at 40-15 up to go on to break for a 3-1 lead.
Two break point chances came and went for the world No. 58, allowing the German to take full advantage and break once more to wrap up the set.
No doubt he hoped he had regained the advantage, but Chung clung on like a limpet, snatching the initiative to love at the start of the fourth which eventually led to Zverev losing the plot and the set after falling 3-0 behind and eventually collect a bagel!
“It was a really tough match, I was just trying to play 100 percent out there,” Chung, admitted on court.
Chung is now the first player from his country to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open and it will now be interesting to see how he measures up when he faces Novak Djokovic in the next round, the Serbian having comfortably dispatched Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2 6-3 6-3.
There was also some disruption in the Julien Benneteau match against Fabio Fognini and it wasn’t the volatile Italian who caused it.
In a mirror image of CoCo Vandeweghe losing her cool over the lack of bananas on court, Benneteau lost his when his electrolyte drink disappeared. “Where is my drink?” he demanded.
He then refused to continue play when the umpire called ‘time’! “I don’t care,” he said. “I don’t play without my drink. It’s not my fault.”
Even the umpire became irritated as he asked his assistants “how hard can it be?’
While the match resumed, and everyone searched for the missing drink, Benneteau fumed two games later: “It’s unbelievable, you [the umpire] don’t do anything except to give me a warning,” he complained.
Having matched his best run in Melbourne, the 36-year-old was unable to contain the mercurial, albeit brittle, Fognini who eventually battled through 3-6 6-2 6-1 4-6 6-3 after three hours on court to reach the last 16 where Tomas Berdych awaits, the Czech having brought to an end Juan Martin del Potro’s challenge 6-3 6-3 6-2.
Elsewhere, Dominic Thiem booked his spot in the last-16 with a win over Adrian Mannarino and will face America’s Tennys Sandgren who squeezed past Maximilian Martere 5-7 6-3 7-5 7-6(5).
The Austrian looks to be in good form to go on and fulfil the promise of his early years as he swept Mannarino aside, 6-4 6-2 7-5 and in answer to his critics, said: “I’ve only gone twice further than the fourth round so I’m a little bit tired of it. I want to go further than the fourth round. I will give everything to do it here … on Monday.”
Thiem had never lost to Mannarino in six prior meetings, and hadn’t dropped a set to him since 2015 so it wasn’t surprising to see him grab the initiative from the outset, his only blip coming when Mannarino broke for 2-2 in the third.
“I think I didn’t lose a match yet here, so I hope the next match will be on this court as well,” Thiem said, before elaborating on his unbeaten streak against his latest victim.
“It was 7-0, but it’s been some very close matches. I knew from the start I had to play very well to beat him and I think I did it.”
Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics beat Nicolas Kicker 5-3 6-3 6-2 and now has the unenviable task of clearing the big hurdle provided by the defending champion, Roger Federer who continues his own run with a 6-2 7-5 6-4 defeat of Richard Gasquet.