Melbourne | Federer advances as Chung retires
In the battle between the next generation and the established players, it would seem that the former have still a long way to go to dislodge the latter from the top.
Both Kyle Edmund yesterday and Hyeon Chung today, were found wanting against the more experienced opponents they faced though all credit to them for reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open – and they will no doubt be back.
I think he is already a great player, but we are talking next level excellence and I think he will achieve that. We will see much more of him. Top 10 for sure Roger Federer
Roger Federer is just one match away from improving his record at grand slams to 20, and he rides into the final having expended little effort with Chung retiring after 62-minutes trailing 6-1 5-2.
But he was quick to say that the 21-year-old South Korean had a future ahead of him.
“I think he is already a great player, but we are talking next level excellence and I think he will achieve that.
“We will see much more of him. Top 10 for sure” but also voiced his concerns at placing too many expectations on the youngster’s shoulders. “I don’t think it’s fair” he added while stating: “I think he’s going to have a lot of success. At what stage, how much, we will see.”
Chung’s unexpected run to be the first South Korean in a grand slam semi-final has drawn new fans to the sport in his homeland where tennis lags far behind golf and baseball in the popularity stakes.
It also sparked top television ratings and a spike in sales of tennis gear, with Chung set to return home far more famous, and richer, than when he left.
Nicknamed “The Professor” due to his trademark thick white-rimmed glasses, Chung said he retired because his blisters were “red raw”.
His agent Stuart Duguid elaborated on that during the post-match news conference. “It’s worse than regular blisters. Over the last few days, it was blister under blister under blister,” he revealed. “He had it shaved off. Now it’s red raw. They tried injections to see if it numbed the pain. It didn’t work.”
“I really hurt. I can’t walk no more,” Chung added.
But despite the anti-climax, Chung said it was great experience and he was “really honoured” to be on the same court as Federer.
“I enjoyed the two weeks, on court and off court. I’m just really happy,” he said.
“For sure, I played really good in the last two weeks. I made first round of 16, quarters and play Sascha (Zverev), Novak, Roger. I had a really good experience.
“I think I can play better and better in the future.”
He admitted that his run in Melbourne had given him a lot of confidence having beaten some good players during the past two weeks.
“I can play, like, more comfortable on the court with the great players like Roger,” he said.
Federer’s fortnight has hardly tested him as he made the final of a grand slam for the sixth time without dropping a set.
“I must admit, you do take the faster matches whenever you can because there’s enough wear and tear on the body,” the 36-year-old defending champion admitted. “When they happen, you take them.
“I‘m just happy I‘m in the final, to be honest. That was the goal before the match today. ]But] not under the circumstances
“He struggled clearly with his movement. I was able to take advantage of that and I wish him a good recovery.”
Federer admitted after his quarter-final victory over Tomas Berdych that he knew little about Chung’s counter-punching game but had done his homework and made his presence felt right from the opening game where, having elected to receive, he broke the Korean at his first attempt.
And within 33-minutes he pocketed the first set.
When Chung held serve for 1-1 in the second set, a huge cheer erupted from an Australia Day crowd who had hoped to witness a classic battle of the generations.
But Chung had no answer to Federer’s firepower.
With his movement and defensive skills — his biggest weapons — compromised he was a sitting duck as Federer racked up 24 winners in the 57 points he required for victory.
Federer broke for 3-1 with a dipping backhand pass and when Chung needed treatment on his foot blisters after losing the next game, his hopes of becoming the first South Korean to reach a grand slam final already looked forlorn.
Chung won one more game but after Federer held for 5-2 he walked to the net to offer his hand, departing the arena to sympathetic applause and a smattering of boos.
World number two Federer now turns his attention to Cilic, who he has only lost to once in nine meetings.
The Croat’s sole victory, however, came in the U.S. Open semi-final in 2014 when he claimed his solitary major title.