January 20, 2018
Hyeon Chung became the first South Korean man to reach the last sixteen of the Australian Open, when he shocked fourth seed Alexander Zverev with a relentless brilliance.
The 21-year-old sensation plays Novak Djokovic next. And make no mistake, the former world number one will have to play something near his best tennis in order to progress.
Meanwhile Hsieh Su-wei, the 32-year-old from Taiwan, showed that her defeat of Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza was no flash in the pan as she saw off Agnieszka Radwanska to claim another big scalp in Melbourne.
And Japan’s Naomi Osaka reached the fourth round of a major for the first time by beating Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-2 to set up a clash with top-seeded Simona Halep.
Amazingly, Simona Halep had to save several match points to win an epic and keep her own title dreams alive. The 20-year-old Osaka looks ready to test her too.
Juan Martin del Potro and Maria Sharapova became the latest much-loved players to have their campaigns ended before the second week.
Tomas Berdych and Angelique Kerber, their respective conquerors, left no doubt about those results with supreme performances.
But it was the Asians who were making most waves in Australia. Few expected them to be riding quite so high.
As the winner of the Next Generation ATP Finals in Milan towards the end of last year, we knew Hyeon Chung was one to watch. But it was widely thought that Zverev’s superior form overall at big events in 2017 would make him the youngster most likely to claim a Slam.
It was Hyeon Chung, however, who showed he had the stamina and nerve to come from behind to pull off a stunning victory. He won 5-7, 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, as Zverev completely ran out of ideas.
The German knows Hyeon Chung is going places, judging by his shell-shocked reaction afterwards. Zverev said: ‘He’s 50-whatever in the world but this was a top-ten level match from the start until the end of the fourth set, and for him until the end.’
Meanwhile Hsieh Su-wei beat Radwanska 6-2, 7-5 and also succeeded in unsettling her opponent psychologically. She insisted that the ball-boys and ball-girls clear the court of moths whenever possible during their night match.
Radwanska argued this was futile, since the insects were everywhere. Unfortunately for her, so was Hsieh Su-wei.
As usual there was drama in Melbourne everywhere you looked. But Halep’s match against Lauren Davis contained the most. In the end the Romanian edged it 4-6, 6-4, 15-13. But Halep had to save three match points in the twenty-second game of the third set at 0-40.
The third set alone took two hours and twenty-two minutes. Even then the crowd couldn’t get enough of it.
Meanwhile the clinical Berdych dismissed the ever-popular Del Potro 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. And Kerber was on fire against Sharapova, beating her high-profile rival 6-1, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena.
No one expected the result to be quite so comprehensive, or for Sharapova to be unable to dig in and prolong the fight.
But Kerber, the 2016 Aussie Open champion, seems to have put the previous pressures of life as world number one right behind her.
She is now playing the sort of tennis that took her to the top in the first place. Could Kerber go all the way in 2018 too. Yes, she could!