2018-01-24 08:07:03
Australian Open: Chung Secures Semifinal Spot in Win Over Sandgren

08:07, January 24 315 0

MELBOURNE, Australia — Hyeon Chung became the first South Korean man to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam singles tournament, beating Tennys Sandgren, 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-3, on Wednesday afternoon.

Chung will seek his next milestone against a far more experienced foe: second-seeded Roger Federer, who reached his 14th Australian Open semifinal with a 7-6(1), 6-3, 6-4 win over 19th-seeded Tomas Berdych.

Chung, 21, won a showcase for young ATP talent last November in Milan, and has solidified himself as the leader of his generation with each successive win at this tournament. He beat last year’s quarterfinalist Mischa Zverev in the first round, Sydney International champion Daniil Medvedev in the second round, fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev in the third round, and six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round.

Chung said his victories had kept him energized.

“When I win the match against top player, never tired,” he said, adding that he was “mentally happy.”

Sandgren, ranked 97th, was, on paper, the least daunting opponent 58th-ranked Chung had faced here. But high on confidence after wins over fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem and ninth-seeded Stan Wawrinka, Sandgren battled toe-to-toe with Chung throughout the match. He served for the second set up 5-3, and fended off four match points before Chung finally converted a fifth.

Though he finished by serving out the match, the pivotal factor in Chung’s victory was his success in returning Sandgren’s second serve, against which he won 55 percent of points.

There are no ATP tournaments in South Korea, but crowds at what is billed as “the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific” have embraced the previously little-known Chung, with many waving Korean flags and other signs in Chung’s native language.

“I think all the people is watching Australian Open now,” Chung said. “Because we make history in Korea.”

Uncomfortable speaking English in his first few years on tour, Chung has grown more comfortable with the language, and introduced his family in his box after the match. When he mentioned his mother, she formed a heart shape with her arms.

There were no such expressions of love after the match from Sandgren, who opened his news conference by reading a prepared diatribe against the news media. He expressed anger over the scrutiny given to his social media history, which showed interactions with figures associated with the alt-right, as well as his own interest in fringe conspiracy theories and racially charged comments.

“With a handful of follows and some likes on Twitter, my fate has been sealed in your minds,” he said. “To write an edgy story, to create sensationalist coverage, there are few lengths you wouldn’t go to to mark me as the man you desperately want me to be.”

After his opening statement, Sandgren was asked how he planned to handle the spotlight going forward.

“I don’t know,” he said, adding that he was “going to go home and enjoy time with my family, turn off my phone, just really reflect on the last two weeks, reflect where my life has gone to, where I’m at, where I am in this stage at 26.”

Some in the tennis world have already moved on: Serena Williams, who had been the target of sporadic derision in Sandgren’s Twitter feed, wrote “Turns channel” on Twitter minutes after his match with Chung had begun.

Chung becomes just the second unseeded men’s singles semifinalist at a Grand Slam since two reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2008. The other was on Tuesday: Kyle Edmund, ranked 49th, who will play against sixth-seeded Marin Cilic in Thursday’s first semifinal.

Federer joined this unexpected trio with his fifth consecutive straight-sets win of the tournament, though that perfect streak appeared in jeopardy early on. Berdych, who has twice before beaten Federer in Grand Slam quarterfinals, got out to a 5-2 lead in the first set, and held two set points. But Federer saved both, and then ultimately rolled through the tiebreak and the next two sets. Federer finished with 61 winners to Berdych’s 22.

Berdych, who had been convincing in straight-sets wins over 12th-seeded Juan Martin del Potro and 25th-seeded Fabio Fognini in his last two rounds, rued his luck of the draw, saying that the less experienced players in the draw would have made for less daunting quarterfinal opponents.

”I faced the best opponent that you can have,” Berdych said of Federer, a 19-time Grand Slam champion. “I mean, when you look at the draw, it’s a bit sad. But that’s how it is.”

The crowd was all too happy to have Federer remain in the tournament; tickets for his semifinal against Chung on Friday night are reselling for roughly triple the price of the match between Edmund and Cilic a night earlier. On-court interviewer Jim Courier made sure to give Wednesday night’s crowd its money’s worth, extending Federer’s interview to almost nine minutes, roughly quadruple the standard length.

Topics included how his fashion has compared with Rafael Nadal’s, copyright issues Nike had faced with wanting to use an Australian Open trophy silhouette on his shoes, and, lastly, Chung.

”It’s great to see new names on the scene,” Federer said. “We need it.”