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ICYMI at Australian Open: So long to the Americans, hello, Chung

MELBOURNE, Australia -- By the close of play on Day 1, it appeared the 2018 Aussie Open was not going to be a favorable slam for the American contingent. Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens, CoCo Vandeweghe, John Isner and Jack Sock had all crashed out to leave the U.S. presence Down Under a little scarce.

Fast-forward to the end of the third round and just two of the 31 Americans remained: 2017 US Open finalist Madison Keys and little-known Tennessean Tennys Sandgren.

Hopes of a nation were pinned on these two vastly different players, who continued to impress en route to quarterfinal berths. However, by 4 p.m. local time Wednesday, both had fallen in straight sets. Ouch.

Keys was the first to exit after a 6-1, 6-2 beating by Angelique Kerber. Sandgren fell to Hyeon Chung, the ATP's new wunderkind.


Chung's fairy-tale Slam continues

If you had Hyeon Chung in the Australian Open men's semifinal, put your hand up.

The South Korean dynamo, who's just 21, has become a fan favorite Down Under with his gritty brick-wall-like game. On Wednesday, he added Sandgren's name to the growing list of players he's bested here.

R1: Mischa Zverev retired (hurt)
R2: Defeated Daniil Medvedev 7-6, 6-1, 6-1
R3: Defeated Alexander Zverev 5-7, 7-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0
R4: Defeated Novak Djokovic 7-6, 7-5, 7-6
QF: Defeated Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 7-6, 6-3

While nothing should be taken away from Chung's stunning achievement, Sandgren stole the headlines with his bizarre postmatch news conference, where he refused to answer the media's questions after reading a statement about his social media activity.

Here's some crazy stats on South Korea's newest star:

  • Chung is the first Korean to make a semifinal at a Grand Slam.

  • At 21 years, 254 days, Chung is the youngest man to reach a semifinal of a major since Marin Cilic at the 2010 Australian Open.

  • Chung was a 250-1 long shot to win the Australian Open before the tournament began. After his quarterfinal win, he is now just 6-1.

  • Should Chung win, he would climb from world No. 58 to the 10th-ranked men's player.


Federer rolls on in Melbourne

No prizes for guessing Chung's semifinal opponent. Yep, that's right, 19-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer is into his 43rd major semifinal.

Federer breezed by Czech Tomas Berdych 7-6 (1), 6-3, 6-4 on Wednesday night to fill the last place in the men's final four.

Here's a few snippets from Federer's postmatch news conference:

Q: What do you think about Chung's tournament so far and what are your thoughts on playing him?

Federer: Look, I'm very excited to play Chung. I thought he played an incredible match against Novak. I mean, to beat him here is one of the toughest things to do in our sport. To bounce back from the Novak match and just somehow get it done today, that's tough. That shows that he's had good composure, a great mindset and also physically he must have recovered because Novak is going to give you a bit of a workout.

Q: You said he's a young player, recovers fast. What are the opportunities for you in that match?

Federer: I'm not sure, I have to look into it. Right now I couldn't tell you how I need to play him. One thing I know is I'm going to be playing aggressive. I don't know how I'm going to do that exactly yet, I have to figure that part out a little bit tonight or tomorrow.


Kerber back to 2016 best

We don't even think Angelique Kerber could have foreseen how dominant she would be in her 6-1, 6-2 quarterfinal rout over the previously in-form Madison Keys.

The 2016 Australian Open champion took just 51 minutes in dismantling the 17th-seeded American -- who had dropped the fewest games of any player en route to the final eight.

After a rather lean 2017, it's fair to say Kerber is back, and back in a big way. Here's some of the crazy stats from the match:

  • Kerber won 83 percent of points where she landed her first serve; Keys managed to win just 43 percent.

  • The German made just seven unforced errors for the match and denied Keys a single ace.

  • Kerber won 54 of the 85 points played in the match.

READ: Angelique Kerber living in the present, and it's paying off

Kerber, who has now the odds-on favorite to win the tournament, will play world No.1 Simona Halep in the semifinals. The Romanian dropped the first three games in her quarterfinal against Karolina Pliskova before rattling off 12 of the final 14 to claim a 6-3, 6-2 win.


Aussie Open serves up a first

A little slice of history was made at the Australian Open when, for the first time at a Grand Slam, a second professional sport was played inside the official grounds.

Australia's National Basketball League (NBL) was on showcase at Hisense Arena with ladder-leading Melbourne United hosting the Cairns Taipans.

Ever wondered how a tennis court can be transformed into a basketball court? Well, here you go:

Fans who came along to Day 10 had the opportunity to head over to watch the game at no additional cost to their Aussie Open ticket and were treated to a fun, energetic, albeit low-scoring, affair. The home side eventually got the job done 76-68 to keep hold of top spot on the table.

Was it a success? We'll let you decide that.

For the first time in Grand Slam history a second professional sport will be played simultaneously inside the grounds. The honour goes to Australia's NBL with Melbourne United hosting Cairns Taipans at Hisense Arena. And yes, the roof is open!

Jake Michaels, ESPN Associate Editor2y ago