MELBOURNE • The Australian Open is also known as the Grand Slam of the Asia-Pacific and it was perhaps fitting that Asia made the biggest impact yesterday.
The absence of Japan's Kei Nishikori from this year's tournament has turned the spotlight on Chung Hyeon of South Korea as Asia eagerly awaits its first men's Grand Slam singles champion.
In the women's competition, China's Li Na, now retired, remains the only Asian champion at Melbourne Park.
But Japanese Naomi Osaka and Chinese Taipei's Hsieh Su-wei have emerged as the players to possibly assume her mantle.
Yesterday, the trio made it through to the fourth round in Melbourne, raising hopes of an Asian triumph next weekend.
Chung became the first South Korean man to reach the Australian Open last 16 after his five-set upset of fourth seed Alexander Zverev.
And the 58th-ranked Chung beat a top-five ranked opponent for the first time with his 5-7, 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 win on Rod Laver Arena.
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2:1Ratio of Tomas Berdych’s winners (52) against Argentinian Juan Martin del Porto’s (26) in the Czech’s 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 third-round victory.
He will face six-time champion Novak Djokovic in tomorrow's fourth round.
"It was really tough. I tried to play 100 per cent on court and that was the key for today. I'm really thankful to my team," said the bespectacled 21-year-old, who trained in Thailand before arriving in Melbourne.
"I played Novak two or three years ago so if he wins, I just want to enjoy things on the court."
It was another disappointing exit from a Grand Slam for the highly-ranked Zverev. While he won five ATP Tour titles and was one of just four players to beat Roger Federer last year, the German has yet to get beyond the fourth round at a Grand Slam.
To rub salt in the wound, it was a Zverev family double for Chung, who eliminated Alexander's older brother Mischa in the first round.
HOSPITALITY NOT UP TO SCRATCHWhere are my drinks? I don’t care, I don’t play without my drinks. It’s not my fault. Can you please do something to find my drinks? Unbelievable!JULIEN BENNETEAU, France’s world No. 59, angrily asking the chair umpire after his electrolyte drink mysteriously disappeared during his third-round loss to Fabio Fognini. His outburst came just days after CoCo Vandeweghe complained about the lack of bananas at the Australian Open.
In the women's draw, Osaka downed local hope Ashleigh Barty with a comprehensive 6-4, 6-2 win to also advance to the fourth round for the first time.
Ranked 72nd, her reward is a clash with top seed Simona Halep tomorrow for a place in the quarter-finals.
The powerful 20-year-old Japanese took the first set against the 18th seed in 38 minutes before racing to a 4-0 lead in the second on the back of an impressive serve.
Barty finally got on the board in her third service game but it was too little, too late, to the dismay of the raucous band of "Ash's Army" supporters on Margaret Court Arena.
"I feel really happy, but also I'm sorry because I know you all really wanted her to win," Osaka, whose mother is Japanese and father Haitian, told the applauding crowd.
"I'm honoured to be playing for Japan," she said before adding that she had benefited from a late switch from the Rod Laver Arena centre court to the smaller venue because other matches had run over.
"There would have been a lot more people cheering for her there so it was good for me," Osaka said.
Hsieh, who shocked third seed Garbine Muguruza in the second round, continued her stunning form by ousting Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 7-5.
The world No. 88 will face Germany's Angelique Kerber, a former world No. 1, tomorrow.
"I come back to the big court again," said an excited Hsieh, when told she would face Kerber, the 2016 Australian Openchampion.
It has been 10 years since the Taiwanese last progressed so far in a Grand Slam singles event. Her best showing was also at the same Major, where she lost to Belgian great Justine Henin.
"It's amazing to make the fourth round again after 10 years," Hsieh, 32, added. "It's always hard to win the last game to beat a great player. It was very intense for me."
Chung, Osaka and Hsieh are now the only Asians remaining in the singles draw, and a continent holds its breath in hope that one of them will reach the summit in Melbourne.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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