(Reuters) – South Korean president Moon Jae-in has backed Chung Hyeon to bring more joy to his country after the youngster’s inspired charge at the Australian Open came to a heart-breaking end in the semi-finals on Friday.
The bespectacled 21-year-old, conqueror of six-times Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic, suffered from blisters on his foot before retiring from the match while trailing 6-1 5-2 against 19-times grand slam champion Roger Federer.
“Chung Hyeon wrote a new chapter in South Korean sports history and brought pride and happiness to all South Koreans. We are so proud of him,” Moon said in a statement on Saturday.
“It is such a pity that he got injured but I believe Chung will go on to become an even better player and achieve excellent results,” Moon added.
With his defeat, Chung fell short of becoming 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.
Despite winning the ATP’s NextGen Finals last year, the world number 58 was virtually unknown in South Korea before gaining superstar status with a run in Melbourne that saw him also oust the Zverev brothers.
His success has raised the profile of the game in South Korea, with the country’s leading online auction and shopping mall website Gmarket witnessing a boom in tennis products including shoes, bags and rackets.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)