Injured Serb tumbles out of Open, but ice-cool Federer marches on
Wounded 12-time grand slam winner Novak Djokovic was sent tumbling out of the Australian Open by Korean giant-killer Chung Hyeon yesterday, but ice-cool Roger Federer roared into the quarterfinals.
The Serb, who was returning from six months out with a right elbow injury, was clearly in pain as his hopes of a seventh Melbourne Park title were extinguished on the Rod Laver Arena 7-6 (7/4) 7-5 7-6 (7/3).
He was keen not to take away from the glasses-wearing Chung’s huge achievement after the 21-year-old followed up his win over fourth seed Alexander Zverev in the last round.
“Congratulations. Amazing,” Djokovic, who also had an apparent hip problem, screeching at times when stretching for the ball, said.
“He was the better player on court today and he deserved to win.”
Djokovic said the injuries started troubling him at the end of the first set and a decision on where he goes from here would be made after talking to his medical team.
Chung’s reward is a last-eight clash with unheralded American Tennys Sandgren, who upset Austrian fifth seed Dominic Thiem 6-2 4-6 7-6 (7/4) 6-7 (7/9). The Korean, ranked 58, described Djokovic as “my idol”.
“I can’t believe this, dream’s come true tonight,” he said.
Sandgren was also in a daze, becoming just the second man in the last 20 years since Frenchman Nicolas Escude to make the quarterfinals on his Australian Open debut.
“I don’t know if this is a dream or not,” he said. “I knew I had to come out, play aggressively, take my chances and serve well. Thankfully it worked out in the end.”
For a composed Federer, it was business as normal.
The Swiss defending champion swatted aside one-time training partner Marton Fucsovics 6-4 7-6 (7/3) 6-2 to make the last eight for an incredible 14th time.
He will now play fellow veteran Tomas Berdych, a semifinalist in 2014 and 2015, who demolished Italy’s Fabio Fognini 6-1 6-4 6-4.
“We have had some good ones over the years going back all the way to the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004,” the 19-time grand slam champion said of the Czech.
“I’m looking forward to play against him. He seems in good shape.”
Berdych, who is on his way back from back problems, lost to the five -time Australian Open champion in the third round last year and the odds are heavily stacked again him.
In other action, world No 1 Simona Halep eased into the last eight 6-3 6-2 over unseeded Naomi Osaka of Japan, delighted to be off court early after an epic and gruelling three-setter in the previous round.
She will play sixth seed Karolina Pliskova, who beat fellow Czech Barbora Strycova in three tough sets. Germany’s Angelique Kerber is the only grand slam champion left among the women. She was given a big fright as she chases her second Melbourne Park crown after beating Serena Williams in 2016.
After crushing Maria Sharapova in the last round, she came up against gritty Taiwanese veteran Hsieh Su-wei.
At one point Kerber was serving to stay in the match, but she bounced back to win 4-6 7-5 6-2.