Fed express: Federer flies into final as Chung retires

Australian Open. Men??????s semi final. Roger Federer Vs Hyeon Chung. 26 January 2018. The Age sport. Photo: Eddie Jim.
Australian Open. Men??????s semi final. Roger Federer Vs Hyeon Chung. 26 January 2018. The Age sport. Photo: Eddie Jim.

Hyeon Chung had won before he lost. He had done enough before stepping on court to prove himself as a player which perhaps made it easier to walk from the court, even if walking was not that easy at all.

Chung was forced to retire in the second set of the semi-final against Roger Federer with blisters that made it hard to move.

Mind you, by that stage he was already thoroughly losing - he was 5-2 down and about to lose the second set after losing the first set 6-1 and so it made it easier for Chung to put himself out of his own misery.

To beat Roger Federer when fully fit was a questionable proposition for him, to beat him when sore was utterly silly. He knew it and walked. Or limped.

The retirement ???gifted the Swiss champion a free pass through to a final against Marin Cilic and a possible - probable? - 20th grand slam title.

Grand slam tennis is supposed to be a test, like five-day cricket, and this was a semi-final as a sporting examination not a match. Hyeon Chung failed.

It lasted an hour and two minutes. An injury timeout came as if from nowhere as Chung betrayed few symptoms before. Then shortly after play resumed he went to the judge and conceded.

What did his decision then say about what had already transpired? The evidence to that stage pointed to a player who had been thoroughly outplayed and outclassed. It pointed to a player totally unready. The injury suggested those judgments harsh and he was too unfit to offer his best.

"I am incredibly happy to be in the finals but not like this," Federer said after the surprising retirement.

Chung failed his test but aced his Open. The avuncular Federer provided Chung - fit or not - with an eye-opening lesson in the next big step. It is a step Chung might take, but one that he is not yet ready to take. That is not his fault, he is a baby ... with blisters.

Before this tournament the world No.58 had not beaten a top-10 player. He then beat Alexander Zverev, the world No.4 in the third round and followed it up with a win over Novak Djokovic in the next round. Sure Djokovic was not in the top 10 then but when fit he is in the top three. Currently he is not fit.

Djokovic with one arm - and not the one that holds the racquet - is one thing but Federer is another. He did not give Chung soft first serves like Djokovic had. Indeed Chung was only hanging on with his nails on Federer's serve throughout that tortured hour and he was beaten around the ears on his own serve.

Federer enthused that this next generation of faces like Chung was young and unknown. Then he slapped him around the court like the school bully at the tuck shop while simultaneously maintaining immaculately coiffed hair, a perfectly positioned bandana and the fist suggestion of a drop of perspiration.

Federer faces Marin Cilic in the final. Cilic will spend the next 36 hours trying to rid himself of the memory of Wimbledon last year when in the final he played Federer when injured. It literally ended in tears. The injury is gone but scars must remain.

Chung was injured at Rod Laver Arena. He too will carry bruises from it, but hopefully not scars. Bruises are good, they are the learning bruises that happen when boys play men for the first time.

This story Fed express: Federer flies into final as Chung retires first appeared on The Age.