By Martyn Herman
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – South Korea’s Chung Hyeon is a frightening prospect who can intimidate opponents but will not be able to trouble Roger Federer in their Australian Open semi-final, according to former champion Mats Wilander.
The bespectacled 21-year-old, conqueror of six-times Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic, is already being compared to his Serbian victim with opponents finding it nigh on impossible to get the ball past his defenses.
Federer, favorite to claim a sixth Australian Open and 20th grand slam in total, admits he knows little about Chung’s game having never faced him or watched many of his matches, but Wilander says that will not worry the Swiss great.
“Chung only has a very small chance,” Wilander, working as a commentator for Eurosport in Melbourne, told Reuters.
“He doesn’t serve well enough. There will be so much pressure on his serve and Federer will have the freedom to try a few different things on the Chung serve.
“He won’t get enough free points. Once the ball is in play he has a chance but I think he is a bit too simple as a player at the moment against someone as experienced as Federer.
“It’s just not the right player for him to play against. Federer has so many different weapons and ways he can play.
“But it will be interesting to see what he comes up with.”
Despite not giving him much of a chance of eclipsing his Djokovic scalp by toppling Federer on Friday, Wilander says Chung’s emergence is “very exciting” and he could be the future of the game.
“He is a frightening prospect because I don’t think the style of tennis is going in the direction of Roger Federer,” Wilander said. “It’s going in the direction of great athleticism and being aggressive from the back of the court.
“You have to have unbelievable skills to play like Federer and I don’t think we’ll ever see his style again.
“I think the Djokovic style is the blueprint that Chung has followed and he is reminiscent of Novak at his best.
“But somehow he is more intimidating. He is thicker set and stronger and in terms of playing against him it must be intimidating. And the scary thing is there’s so much room for improvement with a serve that’s basically five out of 10.”
Chung is bidding to become the first man to reach his first Tour level final at a grand slam since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Australian Open 10 years ago.
Yet Wilander says the match-up against Federer could be a “nightmare”.
“I don’t think he will be intimidated by Federer’s aura, but more because of his game, his style and how quick he plays, he won’t have much time to think out there,” Wilander said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)