On Monday, Federer is No. 1 again

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The cardboard-looking concoction with the word “oldest” on it crafted to mark the occasion probably won’t make Roger Federer’s jet back to Switzerland.

But whether he’s first, last, oldest, youngest, tallest, best-coiffed or Swissest, the 36-year-old will once again be the No. 1 ranked player on the ATP Tour when the new rankings are released on Monday.

Federer took a last-minute wild card into the ATP 500 Rotterdam event, and needed to win three matches and reach the semifinals to grab that top spot again.

He did it Friday night, against a very under-the-weather-looking Robin Haase.

The 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory guaranteed the numbers will add up. And Federer will return to the top spot for the first time since early November, 2012.

Monday

A number of No. 1 records

Federer is back at the top of the game – at least for moment – for the first time in five years and 106 days.

That shatters the ATP record for longest gap, held by Andre Agassi since 1999. 

The gap of 14 years and 17 days since the first time Federer became No. 1 is also a record, unlikely to ever be touched (although never say never).

And he is now by far the oldest man ever on the ATP Tour to be No. 1, surpassing Agassi’s “oldest” record by more than three years.

Nike was already prepared. Federer’s sponsors are pretty good at having all this stuff ready – just in case.

The three phases of No. 1

The Rotterdam event, with tournament director Richard Krajicek out on court, had a ceremony all prepared

But Haase looked like he might spoil the show early on.

Monday
Haase was definitely struggling, but gamely carried to make sure the moment wasn’t anticlimactic for his friend Federer (TennisTV)

Surely Federer had some nerves. But Haase, who is playing good tennis right now and also is the highest-ranked male player in the host country, didn’t show up to hand the crown to his Swiss friend. And it was the one place this matchup wasn’t going to have the crowd overwhelmingly in Federer’s favor.

Federer later acknowledged that he knew Haase had not been feeling well all week. And by the end, the Dutchman wasn’t even sitting down on a changeover which, most tennis players will concur, usually means your back is killing you.

MondayHaase also, at one point, appeared to vomit in a nearby garbage can grabbed for the occasion.

Had he not played at all, that would have been … well, a little anticlimactic and awkward.

Haase, who is friendly with Federer, also stayed for the entire ceremony. It wasn’t his first rodeo with Swiss players and occasions.

“Ironically, (Haase) has to go through another ceremony with another Swiss guy. Six months ago in Basel it was Marco (Chiudinelli) he took on court doing the round of honours, and how you have to watch this,” Federer said. “I’m sorry you have to do all these things.”

Federer tribute at the ready

The tribute began with Krajicek’s rambling speech about Federer’s fabulousness, and a video testimonial to the same fabulousness.

“Thank you for being the great guy that you are – he really is an unbelievable guy. And thanks for being an amazing ambassador for the sport we all love,” Kracijek said.

(Lest anyone think Federer has a healthy ego, well … it’s probably difficult not to develop one when nearly everyone you meet, every single day, is telling you how fabulous you are).

Federer was emotional, but calm. He pointed out the three different phases of being No. 1, when you’re Roger Federer. They are phases not too many mortals can even contemplate and, indeed, as recently as six months ago Federer likely was not contemplating that it could happen again.

“Reaching No. 1 is one of, if not the ultimate achievement in our sport. Sometimes in the beginning you just all of a sudden get there, just because you’re playing so well. Later, you sometimes try to fight it back, you wrestle it back from somebody else who deserved to be there,” Federer said.

“And when you’re older, you feel you have to put in maybe sometimes double the work in. So this one maybe means the most to me throughout my career. Getting to No. 1 and enjoying it at 36, almost 37 years old is an absolutely dream come true. and I can’t believe it.”

Going for title No. 97

Meanwhile, the tournament is not over. 

Federer is in the semifinals, and will meet lucky loser Andreas Seppi. He is 13-1 against the Italian, the only loss coming at the 2015 Australian Open.

He should be all right, unless he “parties like a rock star” Friday night. He’ll also get the benefit of another night match, under the roof as well (!!!!). 

If Federer wins that, he would face the winner of a match between David Goffin of Belgium (6-1, with the Belgian winning the last one, in the semifinals of the ATP Tour Finals in London last November) and Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria (6-0).

And on Monday, the milestone will be official.

(All screenshots from TennisTV.com)

Federer to Rotterdam for a shot at No. 1

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Roger Federer must be feeling really good physically, after winning his 20th Grand Slam title just 10 days ago at the Australian Open.

He is headed to Rotterdam next week to play in the ATP Tour 500 event there.

“The tournament is special for me. I remember playing for the first time in 1999 as it was one of the first events where I got the chance to play at the highest level. It feels good to join in the celebrations of the 45th edition,” Federer said on his website.

There had been negotiations with the 500 event in Dubai, which takes place the following week. Federer, who has a training base there, played that event every year from 2011 through 2015, and returned last year after winning in Melbourne.

That turned out not to be his best move; he lost to No. 116 Evgeny Donskoy. But he quickly righted the ship by winning both Indian Wells and Miami a few weeks later.

Federer played Rotterdam early in his career, from 1999 through 2005 before the Dubai money kicked in, and he was reluctant to play back-to-back weeks.

He returned to the Netherlands in 2012 and won it, beating Juan Martin del Potro in the final. Federer was back in 2013 to defend his title, but lost to Julien Benneteau in the quarterfinals. And this is his first trip since then.

The trip to Rotterdam all but assures Federer won’t play Dubai, with the two major events in the U.S. coming up so soon afterwards.

The fascinating thing about this addition to Federer’s schedule (beyond what bank Rotterdam may have robbed in the process) is that the No. 1 ranking is in play earlier than anticipated.

The race for No. 1 is on

Federer is just 155 points behind Rafael Nadal in the race for top spot.

If he reaches the Rotterdam semis, and banks the 180 points that go with that, he would overtake the No. 1 ranking for the first time since Oct. 29, 2012.

A little extra cushion on that is that Nadal, who next plans to play the ATP Tour 500 event in Acapulco at the end of the month, is defending 300 finalist’s points there.

The oldest man to hold the No. 1 ranking remains Andre Agassi, who was 33 years old when he did it in 2003. Federer turns 37 in August.

Leave it to Federer to add a little intrigue out of nowhere.

(**SABR = Sneak Attack by Roger)

Right here, we’re calling for the draw gods to have the Australian Open champion draw Canadian teenager Félix Auger-Aliassime in the first round. Call it the May-December, August 8 Special, as the two share that birthday.

Auger-Aliassime, who is playing a Challenger event in Budapest this week, was given a wild card and will make his ATP Tour main draw debut there.

No. 20 for Federer opens the floodgates

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MELBOURNE, Australia – The moment Marin Cilic missed his final return in the fifth set, Roger Federer burst into tears.

His moment of triumph was delayed, as often happens these days, by one final, futile Hawkeye challenger.

But the deed was done. The 36-year-old from Switzerland had won the Australian Open men’s singles title, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

Federer held it together fairly well during the trophy presentations, until the end, When he thanked his team and his family, he lost it again.

The crowd roared.

And every time Federer thought it was over, the noise of the ovation would swell up again, and the tears would swell in Federer’s eyes again.

Federer back in 2009, after he lost the Australian Open final to Rafael Nadal).

Federer has shed tears on this court before. Back in 2009, they were tears of defeat, when longtime rival Rafael Nadal had to comfort him when he just couldn’t hold them back.

Last year, they were tears of unexpected joy.

This year, they may well have been tears of relief after stressing himself into a frenzy for 36 hours before the match.

Which didn’t make that moment any less special, or any less impressive.

No. 20, and a successful defense

It is the 20th Grand Slam title of Federer’s career. That puts him four ahead of Nadal, and eight ahead of Novak Djokovic. He successfully defended a major title for the time since he won back-to-back US Opens a decade ago, in 2007 and 2008.

A decade later, Federer has practically made time stand still. His brand of tennis remains a champion’s brand still.

Federer had help. What looked early on to be a rout – “I got off on a flyer, which was great,” he said – became an intense battle for a significant length of time. Cilic found his rhythm and refused to bow. Federer’s thoughts got the better of him.

Federer comes by the lachrymosity honestly – it’s in the DNA.

“I just think I froze in the tiebreak, end of the second. I just think I got really nervous. And then it got to be a match, it got tight. I think Marin helped me out in the third and in the fifth to stretch the lead a little bit. I couldn’t stop the bleeding almost. It was terrible. He was in control. He was the one calling the shots all of a sudden,” Federer said during one of his myriad post-match television interviews. 

“My mind was all over the place. ‘I’m so close right now. Don’t mess it up.’ It always happens, and it’s crazy. I had to get lucky, to be quite honest, at the beginning of the fifth. I personally don’t think I’ll come back if he breaks me first. But crazier things have happened – like last year.”

A year ago, Federer was down 1-3 in the fifth set to Nadal, down and almost out, and came back to win. This time, Cilic was down 1-3 in the fifth set. But he couldn’t manage to duplicate the feat.

Cilic vs. Federer – and 15,000 FedFans

He was a worthy runner-up, a classy competitor who persevered despite the almost unilateral support inside Rod Laver Arena for his opponent. 

It’s hard to even fathom how quiet it would have been in there, had the Croat found the path to victory.

floodgates
“I couldn’t speak. It was terrible.” – Federer, on keeping his composure after winning his 20th Slam.

When it got to a fifth set, Cilic actually had a superior record. He was 27-12 going in; Federer was 29-20. But as a former champion once said, the fifth set isn’t about tennis.

Well, momentum was on my side from 3-2 or even 3-1 in that fourth set. I came back, won the set 6-3. Plus it was all games that I deserved and earned really well. I played great tennis, started to return really good,” Cilic said. “That first game of the first set, putting a lot of pressure, four break points, I went for my shots and didn’t make them.”

A testy test of nerves

Both players were on short fuses. Early on in the match, Cilic was fretting about the string tension in his rackets. He sent numerous sticks out for restringing and angrily, almost in a panic, gestured at his box about the situation.

floodgates
When a legend takes a shot of you losing your … stuff in front of the world.

For his part, Federer was snarky with one linesman on a call. And he was an absolute cranky pants with chair umpire Jake Garner about making sure he reminded him when they were about to change to new tennis balls.

“Talk to me, talk to me, remind me,  3-0 in the fifth, I can’t do it all by myself,” he told Garner.

Federer said the 7:30 p.m. start for the final was the worst thing in the world. It gave him all those extra hours to think about the match, debate himself about the likely outcome, overthink every little thing.

Long day’s journey into 20

“I think my thoughts were all over the place all day. I was thinking, what if I lost, what if I won, every minute of the day. Thank God I slept until 11. Imagine if I woke up at 7 and was up 12 hours before the match,” he said.

“I think I was going through the whole match like this. I’ve had these moments in the past, but maybe never as extreme as tonight. Getting to 20 is obviously very, very special, no doubt.”

He likened the feeling after it was over to the 2006 final against Marcos Baghdatis.

After losing the first set, Federer went on to defeat Marcos Baghdatis in the 2006 Australian Open final. And all that pressure came out.

“I had a great run to the finals, was a huge favourite going in. Keeping my composure. The matches weren’t emotional going to the finals but I felt so relieved when it was done,” he said.

Just like Sunday night.

“That’s why I couldn’t speak. It was terrible … When I start thinking about what I was going to say, every subject I touch actually is very meaningful and very emotional. Thanking your team, congratulating Marin, thanking the people, thanking the tournament. …  But I hoped over time in the speech I would start to relax a little bit, but I couldn’t,” Federer said.

“It was what it was. I wish it wasn’t so sometimes. At the same time I’m happy I can show emotions and share it with the people. If I got emotional, it’s because it was a full crowd again. (Having) no people in the stadium wouldn’t make me emotional, I’ll tell you that. This is for them really also.”

Federer didn’t even notice the legendary Rod Laver taking video of him bawling on his iPhone. “I didn’t even see it happening because I was crying too much,” he said. “I couldn’t lift my head. And I was just too embarrassed. It was terrible.”

20 Slams? Not terrible

This was Federer’s sixth title in Australia, tied with Roy Emerson and Djokovic for most all time. He has eight Wimbledons, five US Opens (tied for most in the Open era) and that one French Open in 2009.

flootgates
The tears kept coming for Federer, after a day and a half of stressing out over the outcome of the Australian Open final.

At this point, there seems to be no end in sight. Because Federer has everything in place.

“I think by not overplaying, not playing every tournament possible. I enjoy practice. Not minding the travel. Having a great team around me, they make it possible. At the end it’s seeing that my parents are incredibly proud and happy that I’m still doing it. They enjoy coming to tournaments. That makes me happy and play better,” he said. 

“Then, of course, my wife who makes it all possible. Without her support, I wouldn’t be playing tennis no more since many years … I’m happy that she’s super supportive, and she’s willing to take on a massive workload with the kiddies. Same for me, because I wouldn’t want to be away from my kids for more than two weeks. This life wouldn’t work if she said no. Many puzzles need to fit together for me to be able to sit here tonight.”

(All illustrations except 2006 Federer: Channel 7 screenshots)

When Federer last met Cilic …

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Roger Federer and Marin Cilic have met under a lot of dramatic circumstances in recent years.

Their last four encounters have taken place either at Grand Slams, or at the ATP Tour Finals.

And when they last met in a Grand Slam final, just six months ago, it wasn’t much of a match because of Cilic’s nasty case of blisters.

But, in fact, their most recent meetings are not listed on their ATP Tour head-to-head. They met under much more relaxed circumstances, while on vacation in the Maldives.

A little hitup in the Maldives

Here’s Federer talking about it.

“I mean, I was there first, I think, and he arrived later on the island. I was told that Marin was coming. And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool”. It’s not that they warned me another tennis player is coming. It’s all good, we’re fine.

When he arrived, I didn’t want to bother him. He didn’t want to bother me. After two days, he wrote me: ‘I’m here, too, in case you want to catch up and stuff, let me know.’

I was like, ‘Sure, let me know if you want to hit.’

He was eager to hit because it’s good to stay in the rhythm for both of us. We also met up later for drinks, met his fiancée. And then we had cake together, my whole family and him. We had a good time. It’s not like we’re hanging out all the time, but our paths crossed a few times. We actually went to practice twice for 45 minutes.

It’s great fun. No coaches, no nothing, just the two of us on the court hitting balls. It was just nice and laid back. To get to know the man behind the tennis player, I guess, even though I got to know him better through the Laver Cup and so forth.”

There was photographic evidence of this – an epic photo Cilic posted on his Instagram.

You know you’re staying in a posh place when someone brings you copious coconut cocktails onto the practice court.

There likely are no official scores to report for the head-to-head; during a 45-minute session, there woulsn’t be any sets played.

So the head-to-head remains Federer 8, Cilic 1.

The last four meetings between Federer and CIlic have been on big occasions – not counting their hitups on vacation in the Maldives last November.

The only win by the Croat was a straight-sets victory in the semifinals of the 2014 US Open – his first and only Grand Slam singles title.

 

Blistered blisters force Chung to retire vs. Federer

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MELBOURNE, Australia – The clash was highly anticipated.

No more so than by defending champion Roger Federer, for whom encounters with new, young blood on the ATP Tour stokes the competitive furnace like little else.

But in the end, it was the 21-year-old, Hyeon Chung who couldn’t stay the course, not the 36-year-old Federer, in their Australian Open men’s singles semifinal Friday night.

Chung abruptly retired, down 6-1, 5-2 in the match, and handed the spot in the final to his older opponent on a silver platter.

Despite having one day less of rest before the Sunday night finale against No. 6 seed Marin Cilic, Federer should be none the worse for it.

He was on court less than hour, if you factor in the medical timeout Chung took in a vain attempt to lessen the pain he was feeling from a radical case of blisters.

Blisters on his blisters – nasty

Here’s the official word from Chung’s agent Stuart Duguid.

“I think a lot of players get callouses. As they go along, they shave them down. Because he has played so many matches in a row, I think that’s why it was a buildup. I think that’s how they started.”

Chung’s blisters were exponentially worse than your standard blister.

blisters

“Over the last few days, it was blister under blister under blister. He had it shaved off. Now it’s red raw. They tried injections to see if it numbed the pain. It didn’t work. Much worse than a regular blister.”

You won’t hear Federer complaining about being unexpectedly free for a not-so-late dinner with his family and friends. Although he said all the right things and expressed regret about winning the match that way.

“You do take the faster matches whenever you can because there’s enough wear and tear on the body, there’s enough tough matches throughout the season that when they happen, you take them. There’s nothing you can do anyway about it,” Federer said.

“I’m just happy I’m in the finals, to be honest. That was the goal before the match today. I was able to get there. Not under the circumstances I was hoping to or not planning with. But I played a good match. He struggled clearly with his movement. I was able to take advantage of that. So for me clearly it was all good. I wish him a good recovery.”

Plan A, and Plan B(lister) for Federer

Federer said he knew Chung had been struggling with his feet. He saw him limping around the locker room. But, as he pointed out, it was an issue before his match against Novak Djokovic, and the 21-year-old played brilliantly to oust the less-than-100 per cent Serb in straight sets.

blisters

So if it was an issue on court Friday night, so be it. If it wasn’t, Federer had a game plan.

“In the beginning, I was trying to keep the points short. If I had to extend the rallies because he was doing a nice job of staying in them, you know, we’ll have some tougher rallies early on. I thought that was not a bad thing for me either. Then just trying to mix it up a little bit. I think you saw that with some short slices, making him come in, me trying to serve and volley. I didn’t serve and volley as much as I needed to, but that was always an option I could have played and used,” Federer said. 

“As I realized that he was struggling, there was no need for me to push the envelope too much and take chances moving forward if I knew it was enough to be playing from the baseline against him.”

From top 60 to top 30 in a fortnight

For Chung, who cut his ATP Tour rankings in half with his effort as an unseeded player (from No. 58 coming in to an expected No. 29 on Monday), it was an unfortunate end to a breakout performance.

“But I think I did right thing. If I play bad thing on the court, it’s not good for the fans and audience as well,” he said. “I really hurt. I can’t walk no more, so …”

Chung’s next scheduled event is the New York Open (the relocated Memphis Open) in two weeks. 

Federer to Bay Area for charity match in March

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Roger Federer’s foray to Seattle to hang with Bill Gates last year was such a success, he’s going to do it again.

The reigning Australian Open champion will head to the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. for another “Match for Africa” exhibition fundraiser.

The match in Seattle with John Isner last April was a sellout,and raised over $2 million for Federer’s charity.

This time, Federer’s opponent will be Jack Sock.

Bill Gates will be back, too, as he and NBC’s Today Show host Savannah Guthrie will have a hit-and-giggle with the two ATP Tour stars.

“We want to go places where people really enjoy tennis, and where it might sell out. Everybody has a lot of fun,” Federer said in a telephone interview with the San Francisco Chronicle from Melbourne.

Federer has been to the area only once in his life, the Chronicle story says – a one-day visit to Google. He never played the ATP Tour event in San Jose, which moved in 2013, because of his long-term commitment to a competing event in Dubai. 

Guthrie gushes for the Fed

Guthrie is an … unabashed Federer fan. So this would be a major bucket-list item crossed off for her.

The timing works out for Federer, who would then head down the coast and out to the desert, where the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells begins a few days later.

Presale tickets go on sale Thursday, and general sales begin Friday. Range is from $30 to $500.

Federer’s stars aligning with win over Berdych

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Roger Federer admitted to nerves before he headed out to play Tomas Berdych in the Australian Open quarterfinals Wednesday night, despite his extremely favourable head-to-head against him.

The defending champion has seen what has happened to nearly all the top seeds in this event over the last 10 days. And the notion that it could also happen to him wasn’t far from his thoughts.

That might be why the 36-year-old Swiss quickly went down 0-3 in the first set. But he recovered quickly and went on to a 7-6 (1), 6-3, 6-4 victory that puts him into his 43rd career Grand Slam semifinal.

“My nervousness doesn’t depend on the rankings of the other players. The nerves are there suddenly. You can’t explain it to yourself. Before going to sleep I thought a lot about the match against Berdych. I watched all the matches I played last year – why I played well, why it was so tight at Wimbledon, why I almost lost in Miami. I felt like today, a bad thing could happen. That kind of made me more nervous than other matches where you say, if I play well, I’ll find the solutions,” Federer said in French during his post-match press conference.

“Sometimes it comes 10 minutes before the match, this time it was for nearly two days. But sometimes it’s good to be nervous before a match, because it tells you you’re alive.”

No. 2, No. 6 – and two upstarts

There are only four players left in the men’s singles draw. There’s Federer, the defending champion in quest of his 20th major. There is Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund, in his first. There is No. 6 seed Marin Cilic, Federer’s opponent in the Wimbledon final last year and a former US Open champion.

And there is 21-year-old Hyeon Chung, an opponent Federer said he has rarely seen play and doesn’t even know. Unlike the vast majority of his opponents, he still has no idea how he’ll play him.

“I thought he played an incredible match against Novak. … To beat him here is one of the tough things to do in our sport, I believe. I know that Novak maybe wasn’t at 110 per cent, but he was all right. He was giving it a fight till the very end. To close it out, that was mighty impressive,” Federer said.

“I don’t quite know exactly who else he beat throughout the tournament. But to bounce back from a Novak match and just somehow get it done today, this afternoon, that’s tough. That shows that he’s had good composure, a great mindset. Also physically he must have recovered because Novak is going to give you a bit of a workout.”

berdych
Given the carnage in the men’s draw, getting Federer wasn’t the luckiest for Berdych.

Berdych has been here before. And he – just a little bit – bemoaned the draw that had him playing one of his nemeses rather than, say, an untested opponent like Chung, Tennys Sandgren or Edmund.

“I mean, if you look at the players and how it is, I mean, of course, young guys. It’s a bit different story than playing Roger in quarters,” he said.

All lining up for the Fed

For Federer, it’s a a dream draw.

The prevailing wisdom about why it has been so hard to break through for the next generation of players has always been this: to win a Grand Slam, you more than likely had to get through at least two, possibly three of the cabal at the top of the game that includes Federer, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.

For Federer to win his 20th major, he needs to do none of that.

The factor of the unfamiliar

But an unknown opponent can be a dangerous opponent. An unknown opponent who has little to lose is especially one to be wary of. Federer joked in his on-court interview with Jim Courier after the match that he was going to try to convince himself that he, too, had nothing to lose.

“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 don’t know exactly how he returns and how he serves exactly. Those are two major aspects to the game. Those start the points,” Federer said of Chung. “I have to figure that part out a little bit tonight or tomorrow.”

Cilic and Edmund get the “first” semifinal on Thursday, which means that the winner will have an extra day of rest over the winner of Federer vs. Chung, a match that will be played Friday night. The men’s singles final is Sunday.

Young guns? Bring ’em on

Federer has always appeared to take particular pride in sending the young, up-and-coming challengers packing with a defeat, and a memory – maybe even a selfie.

When you’ve played as long as he has, you look for new challenges wherever you can find them. And Federr goes out of his way to invite many of them to practice with him at tournament, and do training blocks with him at his base in Dubai. 

Berdych

Still, Chung has come along so quickly, he remains a mystery.

“I find it disappointing when their breakthroughs come at 27, because then we know them for seven years, let’s say. So I like it when we don’t know the guys. I hardly know Chung. I’ve hardly spoken to him. And I had one Nike appearance once with Edmund over in London. That’s about it. Maybe otherwise I’ve shaken his hand twice and spoken a few words to him. In a way I like it, because it’s really something totally new to me and to some extent for you guys, too,” he said.  

Korean players toiling in obscurity

For Chung, who defeated Sandgren 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in an afternoon match that had its share of entertaining moments, it’s a big occasion for not only himself, but for his country and the game in his country.

While there are a lot of Koreans playing professionally, the vast majority tend to remain in Asia, playing Challengers and ITF events there. 

There are 16 Korean women with WTA Tour rankings. Only one, Su Jeong Jang, is ranked in the top 150. She reached the final round of qualifying at both the French and US Opens in 2017. But other than a couple of events before each Grand Slam, she never left Asia.

On the men’s side. there are 33 players with ATP Tour rankings. Beyond Chung, there are two younger players in the top 200, including 19-year-old Duckhee Lee. Lee has gotten some press, because he is profoundly deaf and an astonishing tennis player despite that major challenge.

“I think all the people is watching Australian Open now because we make history in Korea, so…” Chung said after his victory.

Not so surprisingly, the 21-year-old’s tennis memories come not from watching Wimbledon on television when he was a kid. They come from the Australian Open, which bills itself as the “Slam of Asia-Pacific” and is played in the time zone closest to his own.

His earliest memories of his role model, Djokovic, come from the Serb’s first career Grand Slam title here in 2008.

He might well procure his number and give him a call. Djokovic, to whom Chung’s game style has often been compared this year, has beaten Federer 23 times.

Photos: Roger Federer has a hit

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Roger Federer has been pretty much untroubled and unruffled so far in this Australian Open.

Through three matches, he has beaten the Slovene-turned Brit-turned Slovene Aljaz Bedene. Then he got through the German, Jan-Lennard Struff. And then he matched one-handed backhands with France’s Richard Gasquet and came out on top.

None of the nine sets were blowouts. But Federer won all nine of them.

If you’d told the defending champion that, from a section of the draw that originally contained Milos Raonic and Sam Querrey, his fourth-round opponent would be Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics, he would take it in a heartbeat.

On Sunday afternoon, Federer had a hit with one of his fellow 30-somethings, Stéphane Robert of France, 

It lasted 45 minutes – at most. Federer then spent about 15 minutes signing autographs and posing for selfies.

Novak Djokovic was hitting right next door. And so the camera crews (and ESPN women Pam Shriver and Chris McKendry) went back and forth with the significant star power concentrated in the same place.

Here’s what it looked like.

Photo gallery: Roger Federer preps

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MELBOURNE, Australia – We’re not sure Roger Federer has been talked about enough in the leadup to this Australian Open.

He’s been exalted, and praised, and beatified to the point where you just want him to start playing tennis so we can all talk about forehands and backhands again.

As expected, Federer got a pre-Australian Open haircut after looking pretty shaggy at the Hopman Cup.

(Talking Fed Hair is a little different, right?)

So the coiffure is on point. The game looks just fine, too.

Here’s Federer practicing with young American Ernesto Escobedo Monday afternoon, in preparation for a first-round match against Aljaz Bedene of … Slovenia.

Until a couple of months ago, Bedene was from Great Britain. But he’s gone back to his original country in the hope of playing Davis Cup and the Olympics.

The Federer match is at 7 p.m. on Rod Laver Arena (3 a.m. EST Tuesday back in North America, midnight on the West Coast).

Federer pondering Roland Garros call

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Roger Federer is coming into the 2018 season with expectations considerably raised from what they were a year ago. 

Happily so.

A year ago, he arrived in Perth, Australia for the Hopman Cup not having played a match for six months. All the questions about form, desire, fitness and health were still to be answered.

But he’s given some thought to how he’s going to approach 2018, as he turns 37 next August. 

If Federer thought he could always go with roughly a 20-tournament-a-year schedule, he admits that reality has set in on that front.

Federer revealed quite a bit in an exclusive interview with French tennis writer Carole Bouchard, which aired on RTL (now available as a podcast) and subsquently was published in the newspaper Le Parisien 

Here are a few translated excerpts. Go give Le Parisien the page views they merit for the rest of the good stuff.

Pondering

Can he repeat last season’s results?

“It depends on the returns of Wawrinka, Murray, Djokovic, Nishikori, Raonic, how strong they’ll come back. How strong Rafa will be. I have all these objectives but if they’re really strong they’re going to beat me eventually,” he said. “So you have to have a little luck, too. Take advantage sometimes of good draws, if there are any.”

Federer said it’s about schedule management, in terms of him staying on Tour “for a long time”, if that’s what he chooses to do.

pondering
However long Federer plays and whatever he ends up doing, it’s unlikely he’ll retire and become a professional surfer. But despite being up to his knees in the water, not a hair out of place.

He said that, for example, if he decided a season was to be his last, then he could just let loose.

“You almost stop the fitness, just play the tournaments and go to the end, even if you’re tired,” he said. “Butif the idea is to play even longer, you have to give up a few things. I can’t chase everything, so I think it’ll be similar to last year.”

French Open in 2018?

“That’s the big question. The whole clay season takes up a lot of space. If you don’t play, it gives you a lot of time to recuperate and time to prepare. And if you play it, you have to give up other things. So that’s what we’re discussing, because it’s the most important decision of the season,” he said.