MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic bowed out of the Australian Open in the fourth round as relentless South Korean Chung Hyeon ground him down to claim a stunning 7-6(4) 7-5 7-6(3) victory yesterday.
Chung, ranked 58th in the world, proved an immovable object, absorbing everything the former world number one could throw at him and returning it with interest.
Two years after losing in straight sets to Djokovic on the same Rod Laver Arena, the bespectacled Chung, 21, turned the tables to claim a huge victory.
“I didn’t know how I’d win tonight. I was just honoured to play against Novak and happy to see him back on the Tour,” Chung said on court as his compatriots cheered in the stands.
“I try to copy Novak in the way I play, he is my idol.”
Djokovic wore a compression sleeve on his serving arm, a legacy of the elbow injury that sidelined him last year.
“Congratulations to Chung on an amazing performance,” the 12-times grand slam champion said.
“He deserved to win. Whenever he was in trouble he came out with some great passing shots and at the back of the court he was like a wall.”
Djokovic made a dreadful start as a spate of double-faults cost him his first two service games and he trailed 4-0.
He clawed back the deficit but Chung took the opening set.
Chung moved 4-1 ahead in the second set but again Djokovic recovered, only to falter when serving at 5-6, netting a forehand on set point after Chung stayed alive in the rally.
Djokovic battled back from a break down in the third but he inexplicably put an angled volley out when he had break point on the Chung serve at 3-3.
Chung saw a 3-0 lead disappear in the night’s second tiebreak but he showed miraculous court coverage to hook a forehand winner past Djokovic to take a 5-3 lead in the tiebreak and when Djokovic netted a return it brought up three match points.
One was enough as Djokovic hit a backhand into the tramlines.
After six months away from the sport undertaking painstaking rehabilitation, he opted against surgery. Now Djokovic must reassess his next step.