‘We’ve made history in Korea’: Chung Hyeon’s stunning run continues into Australian Open semi-finals
The 21-year-old sees off American Tennys Sandgren and could next face defending champion Roger Federer in the last four
Serving for a spot in the Australian Open semi-finals and with the score at 40-love, Chung Hyeon started thinking how he might celebrate being the first Korean to reach the last four of a grand slam.
Not so fast. He hadn’t let up when upsetting No 4 Alexander Zverev or six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic en route to the quarter-finals, but he let his guard down for a few points against No 97-ranked Tennys Sandgren.
He missed four match points in the last game and had to fend off two break points, including one in a 31-shot rally dominated by slice backhands, before finally beating Sandgren 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-3 at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday.
“In last game, I think at 40-love … if I win one more point, I make history in Korea. I have to think about the ceremony, something,” he said, explaining how he got slightly ahead of himself.
“After deuce, break point. I was like, no, nothing to do with ceremony. But just keep playing – keep focused.”
Then he fully embraced the moment, joking with Jim Courier in an on-court television interview, introducing the audience to his parents and his coach, and taking the microphone to speak in Korean to millions of new tennis fans back home.
“I think all the people is watching Australian Open now because we make history in Korea,” he said.
World No 58 Chung is the lowest-ranked man to reach the Australian Open semi-finals since Marat Safin in 2004. At 21, he is also the youngest to reach the last four at a major since Marin Cilic did it here in 2010.
With Chung already through, and Kyle Edmund playing No 6 Marin Cilic in the other half of the draw, it’s the first time since 1999 that multiple unseeded players have reached the Australian Open semi-finals.
Chung could next face defending champion Roger Federer for a spot in the final. Federer was playing Tomas Berdych later on Wednesday in the quarter-finals.
Two women who’ve been to this stage at a grand slam before will meet in the last four. One has two major titles, the other still seeks a breakthrough.
Top-ranked Simona Halep recovered from an early break to win nine straight games in a 6-3, 6-2 win over No 6 Karolina Pliskova and set up a semi-final match against 2016 champion Angelique Kerber, who routed US Open finalist Madison Keys 6-1, 6-2.
Kerber has been the only grand slam singles champion in the women’s draw since her third-round win over Maria Sharapova.
Two-time French Open finalist Halep has had a tougher road – having to save match points in a third-round win over Lauren Davis that finished 15-13 in the third – to reach the semi-finals at Melbourne Park for the first time.