He Played Tennis Because of an Eye Disorder, Now He’s the First Korean in a Grand Slam Quarter Final

south korean tennis star makes history

There is no stopping 21-year-old Hyeon “the Professor” Chung in Melbourne, Australia.  

After delivering an impressive upset in defeating six-time champion Novak Djokovic during the Australian Open on Monday, South Korean Hyeon Chung went on to prove his mettle by defeating unseeded American Tennys Sandgren in straight sets (6-4, 7-6, 6-3) on Wednesday to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal.

Chung, the first South Korean tennis player to make it to the final four of a major, is set to face defending champion Roger Federer, who demolished Tomas Berdych via a 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 6-4 win in Wednesday’s night match.

A victory against Federer will place Chung alongside Japanese star Kei Nishikori as the only Asian men to make a grand slam final appearance, according to CNN.

“We all Asian players looking (to) Kei and we trying to follow him,” Chung was quoted as saying. “He’s the pride of Asian player.”

A rising favorite in the prestigious tournament, the talented 21-year-old has been touted as an icon for his unprecedented run as the lowest ranked player to reach the Australian Open semifinal since Marat Safin in 2004.

Chung also charmed fans in Melbourne not only with his skills on the court, but also with his interviews, even though he’s still learning English. In an interview, he admitted to thinking ahead during the previous game when he led 40-0, only to have to save two break points.

“I think last game many things come together,” he said. “If I win one more point, I make history in Korea. Something I thinking like that. I have to think about the ceremony.”

Chung speculated that tennis, currently South Korea’s fifth most popular sport, will become even more popular with his success.

Interestingly enough, he began playing tennis because of an eye condition called astigmatism, which disrupts the way the eye focuses light resulting in blurry vision, according to Sporting News. Chung wears glasses when he plays because of his high-level astigmatism, earning him the nicknames “The Professor” and “The Scientist”. As a child, an eye doctor told him that focusing on something green could help his eyes focus, and as his brother played tennis, Chung decided to take up the sport too.

Chung is now the youngest men’s grand slam semi-finalist since Marin Cilic at the 2010 Australian Open. The South Korean could meet the Croatian, who himself reached the semifinal after retiring Rafael Nadal on Tuesday, reports ESPN.

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