By Martyn Herman
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Ruthless Roger Federer handed wounded Chung Hyeon an old-fashioned schooling before the overwhelmed South Korean quit with foot blisters trailing 6-1 5-2 in a damp squib of an Australian Open semi-final on Friday.
Federer was detained for only 62 minutes under the Rod Laver Arena roof as he set up a final against big-serving Croat Marin Cilic who pummelled another young gun, Kyle Edmund, on Thursday.
It is the sixth time Federer has reached a grand slam final without dropping a set — the most recent at Wimbledon last year when he beat an injured Cilic in the final.
Although happy to conserve energy for Sunday’s final, and even make it out in time for a spot of dinner, the 36-year-old defending champion said it had been a “bitter sweet” victory.
“I must admit, you do take the faster matches whenever you can because there’s enough wear and tear on the body,” Federer told reporters. “When they happen, you take them.
“I’m just happy I’m in the final, to be honest. That was the goal before the match today. Not under the circumstances I was hoping to (reach the final)…
“He struggled clearly with his movement. I was able to take advantage of that. I wish him a good recovery.”
It was an anti-climactic end for Chung, who played superbly to beat fourth seed Alexander Zverev in five sets in round three and even better in a straight sets win over six-times champion Novak Djokovic in the round of 16.
The 21-year-old was joined by his agent Stuart Duguid in the post-match news conference who explained what had happened.
“It’s worse than regular blisters. Over the last few days, it was blister under blister under blister,” he said.
“He had it shaved off. Now it’s red raw. They tried injections to see if it numbed the pain. It didn’t work.”
“I really hurt. I can’t walk no more,” Chung added.
Federer admitted after his quarter-final victory over Tomas Berdych that he knew little about Chung’s counter-punching game, having never faced him before.
He had obviously done some homework though as he swarmed all over the world number 58 from the first game, feasting on Chung’s powder puff serve to break immediately after choosing to receive first having won the coin toss.
Bashing winners for fun he repeated the trick twice to grab the opening set in 33 minutes.
When Chung held serve for 1-1 in the second set, a huge cheer erupted from an Australia Day crowd who had hoped to witness a classic battle of the generations.
But Chung, nicknamed ‘the professor’ mainly because of his scholarly white spectacles but also because of a maturity beyond his years, had no answer to Federer’s firepower.
With his movement and defensive skills — his biggest weapons — compromised he was a sitting duck as Federer racked up 24 winners in the 57 points he required for victory.
Federer broke for 3-1 with a dipping backhand pass and when Chung needed treatment on his foot blisters after losing the next game, his hopes of becoming the first South Korean to reach a grand slam final already looked forlorn.
Chung won one more game but after Federer held for 5-2 he walked to the net to offer his hand, departing the arena to sympathetic applause and a smattering of boos.
World number two Federer now turns his attention to Cilic, who he has only lost to once in nine meetings.
The Croat’s sole victory, however, came in the U.S. Open semi-final in 2014 when he claimed his solitary major title.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by John O’Brien and Toby Davis)