Can Chung, Edmund spring another surprise? Australian Open semi-finals preview

Britain’s Kyle Edmund and South Korea’s Hyeon Chung are both only one game away from their first ever Grand Slam final. The young players’ run to the Australian Open semis has been the story of the tournament but now two experienced pros stand in their way in Marin Cilic and the great Roger Federer. Preview by Jade du Preez

Britain’s Kyle Edmund could emulate Andy Murray by reaching a Grand Slam final

Never before has the semifinals of a Grand Slam been so unrecognisable. Let alone the men’s semis. Granted they’ve been dominated by household names like Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer – but only one of those legends will appear in the semifinals of the Australian Open this year.

And that, of course, is the Swiss Maestro himself, Mr Roger Federer. He’ll go up against Hyeon Chung, the South Korean 21-year-old, who holds a world ranking of 58 and hasn’t competed in a full year of Grand Slams yet in his young career.

Federer, meanwhile, has won 19 Slams and is gunning for his 20th. He has, in many ways, won them all – he’s earned Olympic gold and silver medals, Davis Cup and Hopman Cup titles, and the Tour Finals, and been crowned the World Number 1. So it’s unsurprising that Chung is the underdog, but he has been in every match he’s played in this tournament.

Chungs is unseeded and only holds one title – the Next Generation ATP Finals – in comparison to Federer’s 95 singles and eight doubles titles. But his performance since January 16 has been remarkable – racing past both Zverev brothers (who showcase incredibly different game styles), America’s Tennys Sandgren, and most impressively Novak Djokovic, although the Serb is still recovering from injury.

Federer has only lost two sets so far this tournament, but hasn’t had to play such gruelling matches – facing three tiebreaks and only Tomas Berdych as his main obstacle, whereas Chung has endured seven hard fought tiebreaks and had a tougher draw. The only question to ask in preparation for their semifinal clash, is whether or not Chung’s legs will withstand the fatigue and pull off yet another stunning upset. Or has his luck run out, because Federer looks hungry for a 20th Grand Slam.

On the other side of the coin, it’s hard to believe that Marin Cilic could be reaching another Grand Slam final if he wins over Brit Kyle Edmund. Ranked 49 in the world, Edmund has dispatched of some big-name tennis stars on his dream run to the AO semis. Kevin Anderson, Denis Istomin, Andreas Seppi and Grigor Dimitrov are all seasoned pros, and Edmund has battled past them in a not very graceful Andy Murray-esque kind of way.

But it gets the job done. He’s lost six sets and taken on three tiebreaks resulting in only one straight sets victory, over Istomin, but there is more at stake for Edmund if he wins his Cilic clash. He could become British Number 1 if he wins at Rod Laver Arena – overtaking an injured Andy Murray.

For Cilic though, this is pretty run of the mill for him. He’s been here before when he won the 2014 US Open and reached the finals of 2017’s Wimbledon, where he fell to none other than Roger Federer, but it’s only been since 2014 that his consistency in Grand Slams has levelled.

Before then it was the third and fourth round for him but tasting success in New York resulted in semis and quarters and finals for the Croatian. He’s path to the semis has been similar to Edmund’s in that he also only won one match in straight sets, lost four sets overall and also weathered seven tiebreaks. Not ideal for a player that wants to reach his third Grand Slam final, but very ideal for Edmund.

Whether this will play a defining role in his win or loss, fatigue cannot be underestimated. The Aussie heat only serves to amplify this, with bodies hurting, tired minds and jetlag still messing with their sleep patterns, this match could go either way for two equally matched players. However this match swings, it’s been an incredible start to 2018 for Edmund and a promising return to form for Cilic.

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