Chung, just two months earlier, had won the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, besting a field of eight of the top 21-and-under players in the world.
The 21-year-old from Suwon then enjoyed a major breakthrough, defeating Novak Djokovic en route to the semis in Melbourne.
Chung recovered from his blisters and has since made three consecutive quarter-finals in Delray Beach, Acapulco and now Indian Wells, where he has a rematch with Federer on Thursday following his 6-1, 6-3 success over Pablo Cuevas on Wednesday. Chung sealed the deal against Cuevas on his 10th match point.
His 2018 record is an impressive 15 wins and 5 losses.
The bespectacled young talent is into his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final and knows he is up against a Federer who hasn’t lost a match yet this year and is a remarkable 15-0 on the season.
“He is playing really good this year so far, as well, so I don’t know. Just playing really fast and good serve, good baseline. He plays everything good. I’m just trying to enjoy on the court,” said the 26th-ranked Chung of Federer.
Federer posted his 60th match win at Indian Wells with a 7-5, 6-4 success over Frenchman Jeremy Chardy on Wednesday. In windy conditions, the Swiss defending champion landed 51 per cent of his first serves in but did not lose a single point on any of those first serves (won 25/25 first serve points).
Point of the day!
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 15, 2018
This is Federer’s best start to a season since 2006, when he began the year with a 16-0 record. The 36-year-old top seed says it was tough to watch Chung in pain during their Australian Open semi-final, and that he “felt for him”. Federer is looking forward to facing an in-form and healthy Chung this time around.
“He seems like a nice guy, very level-headed. I think similarities to Novak’s (Djokovic’s) game are particular, which is mostly in his movement, the way he’s able to slide to his forehand and to his backhand with the open stance, which not many guys do or do it as extensively as Chung does,” said Federer of his South Korean opponent.
“That’s the only similarity I see. You know, service motion, all the other motions are very, very different. It’s a Chung motion, if you like. Nobody has that kind of motion, I think, which is good.
“But I see where the similarities come from with Novak and it’s not a bad one to have, to be honest, because Novak has maybe the best footwork on hard courts we have ever seen.”
Chung grew up idolising Djokovic and his playing style and baseline game have certainly driven people to draw comparisons between the two.
His consistency this season has been incredible, having made the quarter-finals or better in five of the six tournaments he has contested so far.
“It’s just a question for Chung to see that he can maintain that level, you know, with the blister, with injuries, over the course of the next 10, 15 years to make sure he stays injury-free and doesn’t get injured three months of the year,” continued Federer, who is 67-5, with nine titles, since returning at the start of 2017 from a left knee injury.
“But it’s highly explosive, it’s highly impressive what he does, and I think he’s going to be a great player. How good will still remain to be seen. I have a lot of respect for him as a player, and I think he’s going to be, yeah, very successful.”
A late surge from Cuevas had @hyeonchung on the ropes but he gets it done in straights!
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 14, 2018
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