MELBOURNE • As the clock ticked towards 8.35pm - 5.35pm in Singapore and 6.35pm in Seoul - yesterday, it became evident that Asia's wait for a first male tennis Grand Slam champion would continue.
South Korean Chung Hyeon, trailing 1-6, 2-5 to Roger Federer in the Australian Open men's singles semi-finals, approached the umpire and retired with foot blisters.
It was a painful end to the 21-year-old's breakout tournament in which he announced himself as a future star in the making.
"I really hurt. I can't walk no more," he told a press conference.
His agent Stuart Duguid provided the details.
"It's worse than regular blisters," he said. "Over the last few days, it was blister under blister under blister. He had it shaved off.
"Now it's red raw. They tried injections to see if it numbed the pain. It didn't work."
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100South Korea's Chung Hyeon was playing his 100th Tour-level match yesterday. In contrast, Roger Federer was contesting his 1,388th.
Defending champion Federer revealed he "knew (Chung) was having issues with his feet going into it" and that the world No. 58 "was struggling" in the second set.
He broke Chung's opening service game and twice more to romp away with the first set in just 33 minutes. It got no better in the second set, with Federer again breaking in the fourth game before the trainer was called onto the court to treat Chung for his foot blisters.
Chung lasted only a bit more than two games before pulling out to stunned silence from the crowd. He finished with 17 unforced errors in 14 games, eight of them off his normally potent forehand, while Federer hit 24 winners.
Many South Koreans glued to their televisions yesterday were also hurting.
"Unfortunately, with the blister wounds on his toes, I couldn't help crying earlier on," said Park Meing Cheon in Seoul.
Yoon Ji Su, from Anyang, though downcast, is expecting great things from Chung.
No coaches, no nothing, just the two of us on the court hitting balls. It was just nice and laid back.
ROGER FEDERER, on practising with Marin Cilic twice when they were on holiday in the Maldives last November. They will meet in tomorrow's final.
"Although the injury is a pity, I hope he recovers well, and I believe there will be great results in the next French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open," he said.
Perhaps the greatest endorsement came from the victor himself.
"We will see much more of him. Top 10 for sure," said Federer, who set up a final against big-serving Croat Marin Cilic after reaching a Grand Slam final without dropping a set for the sixth time.
Chung's unexpected run to be the first South Korean in a Grand Slam semi-final included wins over 12-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic and fourth seed Alexander Zverev.
The Suwon native already attained some of his goals by becoming South Korea's top-ranked player and achieving his best showing in a Grand Slam. And his next target is clear.
"Next goal is I want to finish the season without injury," he said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS