The two biggest surprises of the 2018 Australian Open faced off today to decide the first semifinal spot on bottom half. The favorite, the young Korean Hyeon Chung, already had a win this year against his opponent – the relatively unknown Tennys Sandgren, who mostly has been featuring on the Challenger Tour. Chung won their encounter in Auckland 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. The 21-year-old took command of this match as well, getting the early break to cruise to a one set to love lead: 6-3.
Sandgren tried his best to hold Chung back with the hope that the youngster wouldn’t show the same kind of game as he did against Novak Djokovic in the previous round. But the American hoped in vain. At least so it seemed as Chung broke Sandgren’s serve in the first game of the second set. But just as it looked like the Korean would run away with the match then and there, Sandgren got the break back three games later. And quite surprisingly, Sandgren broke yet again off a Chung forehand error to go up 5-3 and now with a chance to tie the match at one set a piece.
However, Chung found his relentless baseline game and powered his way into a tiebreak. With Sandgren serving 5-6, set point down, we got a good look at how the future of the game might look like. Chung, ranked 58 prior to the tournament, fired the one flat groundstroke after the other until Sandgren could no longer keep the ball in play. The Korean now held a two sets to love lead, one set away from the semifinal: 6-3, 7-6(5).
Sandgren, who has the amazing quality of being able to take his game to higher levels the better the opponent is, couldn’t reach the kind of heights Chung displayed today. Thus, it was no surprise that the 21-year-old broke the American’s serve after a lengthy game at 2-1. Chung was determined to not let Sandgren back into the match, the way he did in the second set, and raced to a 5-3 lead. But Chung wouldn’t be human if he didn’t show signs of nerves – at least for once in this tournament. The Korean burned five match points (Sandgren saved one with an incredible volley combination). Perhaps there was a slight chance for Sandgren to amount a comeback?
Not a Chung’s watch, though! The youngster earned himself another match point and when Sandgren couldn’t get a powerful Chung forehand back into play, the victory was sealed: 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3.
Federer or Berdych?
After defeating Alexander Zverev in five sets in the third round, Hyeon Chung now has two straight set victories in a row. But chances are he’ll have to work hard to keep that streak alive as he will face either the defending champion Roger Federer or Tomas Berdych, who has played terrific so far in the tournament, in the semifinal.
Can Chung go all way to the final and even clinch the title? Share your thoughts in the comments field below!