South Korean Hyeon Chung has knocked out another unseeded player America’s Tennys Sandgren to make his first Australian Open semi-final. And he also becomes the first South Korean to do so.
Chung who made headlines for beating former champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round, ended Sandgren fairy tale run in three sets 6-4 7-6 6-3.
Bespectacled like Clark Kent but playing like Superman at a sunbathed Rod Laver Arena, world number 58 Chung became the lowest ranked player into the last four at Melbourne Park since Marat Safin in 2004.
The 21-year-old wobbled when serving out the match, squandering a 40-0 lead and seeing a total of five match points disappear into a cloudless sky as world number 97 Sandgren battled gamely.
But his raw power ultimately prevailed, a blazing forehand into the corner causing a scrambling Sandgren to push his desperate retrieve well past the baseline.
“I don’t know, in the last game at 40-0, I thought it was time to do a ceremony or something like that,” Chung told Jim Courier in the on-court interview.
The Korean called ‘professor’ now awaits the winner of Roger Federer-Tomas Berdych match as his next opponent in the semi finals.
Loser Sandgren, from Gallatin in Tennessee, is only the second man in the last 20 years to make the Australian Open quarter-finals on his debut.
Amazingly, the 26-year-old missed out on qualifying in the last four years to reach the main draw in Melbourne.
He conquered former winner Stan Wawrinka and fifth seed Dominic Thiem. But he found South Korean giantkiller Chung Hyeon, insurmountable for a place in the semi-finals.
In the women’s category, former champion Angelique Kerber thrashed American Madison Keys 6-1 6-2 to join Caroline Wozniacki in the semi-finals.
Making a mockery of the 21st seeding she landed after a miserable 2017, the former world number one outplayed Keys in almost every facet of the 51-minute match to seal a semi-final date with Simona Halep or Karolina Pliskova.
“I was just playing my game, I was not thinking a lot about winners or errors, I was staying in the moment and trying to play every single point,” a beaming Kerber said on Rod Laver Arena.
“I just went out and played like I’ve been playing all week. Just playing my game and enjoying it. I‘m just happy to get through and be here in the semis.”
In an echo of her loss to compatriot Sloane Stephens in the final of last year’s U.S. Open final, Keys appeared to be struck by stagefright and offered none of the power and accuracy that got her to the last eight without losing a set.
Keys started the match with three unforced errors and a netted backhand to lose her first service game and barely 15 minutes were on the clock before the German had another break in the bank and a 4-0 lead.
The 22-year-old tried charging the net in a desperate attempt to kickstart her game but a brilliant backhand pass from Kerber brought up two set points and the stanza was hers in 22 minutes when the 17th seed sent a forehand long.