Djokovic: "Chung Has Game To Be Top 10"
In his first tournament back for six months, Serbian star praises Chung
Six-time former champion Novak Djokovic believes that Hyeon Chung has the potential to break into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings following the South Korean’s 7-6(4), 7-5, 7-6(3) victory in the Australian Open fourth round.
“He definitely has the game to be a Top 10 player, without a doubt,” said Djokovic. “How far he can go, that depends on him. Obviously, I respect him a lot because he's a hard worker, he's disciplined, he's a nice guy, he's quiet. You can see that he cares about his career and his performances. So I'm sure that he's going to get some really good results in the future.”
Djokovic always felt he was fighting to get back into the match against No. 58-ranked Chung, who captured the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals title last year.
“Congratulations to Chung and his team – amazing,” said Djokovic. “[An] amazing performance. He was a better player on the court tonight. He deserved to win, no question about it. Whenever he was in trouble, he came up with some unbelievable shots, passing shots. Just from the back of the court, he was like a wall. It was impressive.
“I had a terrible start – [a] double break down, [but] managed to come back. Probably, in the first set tie-break, he just was mentally tough and patient. The second set also he was up. I think the entire match I was trying to come back and chase him. He was always ahead.”
Djokovic, who was contesting his first tour-level event since July 2017 at Wimbledon due to a right elbow injury, admitted that his elbow was soon bothering him in the clash on Rod Laver Arena. The injury required on-court treatment.
“Unfortunately, it's not great. Kind of [at the] end of the first set it started hurting more. So I had to deal with it until the end of the match… I have to say I'm very grateful I had the chance to play. I didn't know if I was going to play or not. I played four matches here. It was a good tournament, of course. I mean, it's disappointing to go out in the fourth round. The circumstances are such [and] I have to accept it. That's the reality.”
“It's frustrating, of course, when you have that much time and you don't heal properly... I'm just trying my best, obviously, because I love this sport. I enjoy training. I enjoy getting myself better, hoping that I can get better, perform and compete. Today was one of those days where, unfortunately, it was too much to deal with.
“But I don't want to talk about my injury tonight, because then I'm taking away from Chung's victory, the credit that he deserves.”
When asked to compare Chung now, to their last meeting at the 2016 Australian Open, the former World No. 1 said, “Oh, there's a big difference. Obviously, he's physically stronger. I think he got some big matches in the past 15 months on the big stage.
“I think that helps to build a confidence and experience, to know what to do in deciding moments. Today, he was great in those moments. He showed no weaknesses, not many. I mean, he was really consistent [and] played a great match.”
Twelve months ago, Djokovic fell to World No. 117 Denis Istomin in the second round. The 12-time Grand Slam championship winner, who has returned to the Tour in 2018 with a new service motion, last captured a major title in June 2016 at Roland Garros (d. Murray).