© Hiroshi Sato

Hyeon Chung reaches his first tour-level quarter-final of the year at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships on Thursday.

Chung Ousts Cilic In Tokyo, Calls It 'One Of The Best Wins In My Career'

South Korean to meet Goffin in quarter-finals

The first three times Hyeon Chung played former World No. 3 Marin Cilic, he did not win a set. But on Thursday evening in Tokyo, Chung flipped the script, and denied the Croat a milestone achievement.

Chung finished strong against Cilic for a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 victory, reaching the quarter-finals of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships after two hours and two minutes. The South Korean also denied Cilic his 500th tour-level win in the process.

“I’m just really happy because this is one of the best wins in my career so far. It was a really tough match against one of the best players in the world,” Chung said. “I’m just trying to enjoy every point.”

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Facing Cilic was a special challenge for Chung, who had not played the sixth seed since 2016 Brisbane. Cilic rallied to force a decider and then used two big first serves to save two break points in the first game of the third set. But Chung kept battling to break for a 1-0 lead, and he never relinquished that advantage.

“We played a few times before, but I never beat him in one set, so I was just trying to do my best,” Chung said. “He’s also a nice guy on and off the court, so I’m just trying to follow him all the time and I’m happy to win tonight.”

Chung struck 11 aces and won 90 per cent of his first-serve points (37/41), earning 53 per cent of his return points in the third set.

“I think it was good serving and I think I played good from the baseline,” Chung said. “I’m just trying to stay calm all the time.”

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The former World No. 19, who won the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in 2017, struggled for much of this season with a back injury. But Chung will now face 2017 Tokyo titlist David Goffin for a spot in his first ATP Tour semi-final since 2018 Munich. The Belgian has won two of their three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings.

“He’s really one of the best players in the world,” Chung said. “We know how to play each other because we practised many times and we played a few matches, so I’m just trying to do my best tomorrow.”

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