Chung Hyeon just defeated Tennys Sandgren to become one of the youngest singles player and the first Korean to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open. Up next, he will be facing either Roger Federer or Tomáš Berdych. When asked which player he’d rather go against, he is undecided, or in his words “50-50”.
What the young Chung will have to face in the near future are greater challenges than either Federer or Berdych. Whilst Chung was playing Djokovic only two days ago, the commentators freely admitted that they knew next to nothing about this young fella. There were only two known aspects of his life then – (1) Chung Hyeon took up tennis due to issues with his eyesight as a child. (2) He was training in harsh conditions in Thailand just a month prior to his outstanding performance in Australian Open.
Now that he has written history in the textbook of the Gram Slam down under, the road he faces ahead will be tough. Mass media is never easy on the famous. In Asia, the ferocity can be twice as harsh. The pressures of fame once nearly destroyed a young athlete in China. Liu Xiang, the Olympic Hurdler created a new record and became China’s first gold medalists in the track and field event in 2004. It was an unexpected win and for a young man of 20, he won fame and fortune overnight. Within 4 years, the pressures of obtaining a second gold medal in home ground Beijing during the 2008 Olympics finally cracked him. He walked off the tracks after a false start, dashing the hopes of the most populous nation in the world.
I’d imagine as I am typing my thoughts on this blog, sports journalists around the world will be frantically searching for information about this new young gun. It won’t be long before his Wikipedia page will be completed with the names of his mum and dad, brothers and sisters, current and future partners. His iconic white glasses will be featured in fashion magazines and spectacle stores all over South Korea. The advertisements will follow along with quotations, social media and finally, the haters.
The Birth of a Star
In my opinion, Chung Hyeon has the makings of a new star. He plays with the resilience of Novak Djokovic – reaching out for the ball even when it looks like a lost point. His strategy is varied and well executed, he has areas where he can further improve to enhance his prowess. Chung has the calmness and focus of Federer, rarely showing emotions on court and never undermining his opponent. He has the humbleness the young and talented Nick Kyrgios lacks. I do hope with all my heart that Chung Hyeon will have the inner strength of Serena Williams to withstand the wrath of haters and the bigots that is coming his way.