South Korean tennis sensation Chung Hyeon bowed out to Roger Federer in the Australian Open semifinals Friday, ending a historic run that has captivated a nation hungry for new sporting heroes.
The 58th-ranked Chung withdrew against the second-ranked Federer with blisters on his left foot, when the score was 6-1, 5-2 in favor of the Swiss great.
Chung was the lowest-ranked man to make the Australian Open semifinals since Marat Safin 2004. The 21-year-old knocked out six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic and world No. 4 Alexander Zverev en route to the final four.
But it wasn't meant to be for Chung against Federer, former world No. 1 with a record 19 Grand Slam singles titles. Now ranked No. 2, Federer will go for his sixth Australian Open title against Marin Cilic in Sunday's final.
Chung still made plenty of history Down Under this week. He's the first South Korean tennis player, male or female, to make the semifinals at a Grand Slam tournament. After the end of the Australian Open, Chung is expected to crack the top 30 in the world rankings.
Former men's singles player Lee Hyung-taik holds the highest-ranking position by a South Korean player at No. 36. He reached that position in August 2007.
Federer made quick work of Chung in the first set. He broke the South Korean to open the match and held his serve to go up 2-0 before taking the set 6-1.
It was much the same story in the second set, and with Federer up 4-1, Chung needed some medical attention to his left foot.
Chung won the very next game after the medical time out but dropped another one to go down 5-2 before calling it quits.
The abbreviated match lasted one hour and two minutes. Federer had nine aces to Chung's one, and he had 24 winners compared to Chung's six.
Chung, whose issues with his serve have been well documented, committed three double faults.
Chung said after the loss that he thought he "did the right thing" by retiring, because not being able to play at 100 percent was "not good for the fans, as well."
But he said he still had a blast in Melbourne.
"I enjoyed the two weeks so far, on court and off court. I'm just really happy," he was quoted as saying on the tournament's website. "(I'm) really honored to play with Roger in semis in Grand Slam. I think I can play better and better in the future. I want to be stronger next year." (Yonhap)