Chung Hyeon seemed to be standing on the edge of a cliff with a 1-6 loss in the first set and a 2-6 loss in the second set. But the South Korean tennis player never gave up. He only adjusted his grip of the racket.
The scores were “doable” to Chung who earned a comeback win at the first-round match, which lasted three hours and 36 minutes. After a dramatic win at the second-round match on Friday, the 23-year-old will next face left-handed genius Rafael Nadal.
World No. 170 Chung defeated world No. 34 Fernando Verdasco of Spain on Friday at the second-round match of the U.S. Open Men’s Singles, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. It was a tight back-and-forth match lasting three hours and 22 minutes. Chung conceded the first two sets but won the next three sets in a row, moving to the third round of the U.S. Open. This is his third time advancing to the third round of a major tournament since the 2017 French Open and the 2018 Australian Open. The advancement to the third round guarantees him 163,000 U.S. dollars in prize money.
Chung will compete on Sunday against Nadal, the world’s No. 2 and the pick to win the tournament by many, for a spot in the octofinals. Nadal has advanced to the third round with no wasted energy as Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia, ranked world No. 203, was forced to withdraw due to an injury.
The South Korean player was one of the ball boys for the 2006 friendly match between Nadal and Roger Federer in Seoul when he was 10. “I am happy to win today’s hard match,” said Chung. “I will take a rest and maintain the good form to show up in good conditions against Nadal.”
So far, Chung lost to Nadal on all two occasions. This is the first time that the two meet each other at a major tournament. Both Verdasco and Nadal are left-handed, so the match against Verdasco may help Chung be prepared to the second Spanish player that he will be faced with.
“Nadal has the best defensive skills in the world” said Park Yong-guk, head of the sports department at the NH Nonghyup Bank. “Whether Chung wins or not, it is critical to surprise Nadal with one-step-ahead attacks based on strong serves.”