MELBOURNE • With Chinese Taipei's Hsieh Su-wei and Japan's Naomi Osaka down and out at Melbourne Park yesterday, South Korean Chung Hyeon carried a continent's hopes on his shoulders as the only remaining Asian player left in the Australian Open singles draw.
The bespectacled 21-year-old, ranked 58th in the world, did not disappoint. He stunned former world No. 1 and six-time champion Novak Djokovic 7-6 (7-4), 7-5, 7-6 (7-3) in the fourth round at Rod Laver Arena and claimed that his "dreams have come true tonight".
"I don't know (how I won). I'm just so happy. I don't know how I did it. I'm just happy to play with Novak again. Great to have him back on the tour," said Chung, who is the first South Korean to reach the quarter-finals at the Australian Open.
The South Korean's ability to turn defence into attack was reminiscent of Djokovic himself, especially when he hit many of his winners from the corner of the court at full stretch. When asked how he did it, Chung again had no answers.
"I don't know. I was just trying to copy Novak because he's my idol. Dreams came true tonight," he added.
What was sure though, was that he did it so well that fellow tennis player Jamie Murray tweeted during the match: "Chung is doing to Novak what Novak has done to everyone for the past 5 years. That was the most Novak-esque performance I've seen - and it was by Chung!! Truly incredible performance. Wow."
The 30-year-old Djokovic was making his return to competitive action following his elbow injury which kept him out of the second half of last season.
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Australian Open round-of-16 appearances by Tomas Berdych, extending the record by a Czech man - ahead of Ivan Lendl's eight. Berdych beat Italian Fabio Fognini 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 to advance to the quarter-finals.
Two years ago, he outclassed Chung in straight sets in the first round of the Australian Open, but it was just not his day yesterday. Chung had the upper hand over the battle-weary Serb, who had treatment to his right elbow after the first set and looked to be in pain at times.
"Congratulations to Chung on an amazing performance," the 12-time Grand Slam champion said.
"He deserved to win. Whenever he was in trouble, he came out with some great passing shots and, at the back of the court, he was like a wall."
Djokovic will reassess his fitness situation and discuss matters with his team medical staff in deciding what to do in the early part of the season.
We might go out for dinner tonight but Mirka has left already - she must have other plans.
ROGER FEDERER, who played his first match in the day session and defeated Marton Fucsovics 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 in the fourth round, saying in jest that his wife was making full use of time as well.
"Yeah, unfortunately, it's not great. Kind of end of the first set it (elbow) started hurting more. So, yeah, I had to deal with it till the end of the match," he said.
"Now I don't know. I have to reassess everything with my team, medical team, coaches, scan it, see what the situation is like. It's disappointing to go out in the fourth round. It's frustrating when you have that much time and you don't heal properly."
In an earlier match, American Tennys Sandgren's dream debut at the Australian Open continued as he upset fifth seed Dominic Thiem 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (7-9), 6-3 to reach an improbable quarter-final.
The 97th-ranked Sandgren, 26, became only the second man since Frenchman Nicolas Escude in the last 20 years to reach the quarter-finals on his debut at Melbourne Park. He will meet Chung tomorrow for a place in the semi-finals.
In the women's draw, sixth seed Karolina Pliskova reached her second Australian Open quarter-final by outlasting Barbora Strycova 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-2 in an all-Czech battle.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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