© ATP World Tour
As we move onto the Asian swing, the attention turns to Asia’s No. 1 male tennis player in Kei Nishikori. The Shimane native has consolidated on his success from last year with titles in Memphis, Barcelona and Washington. The current World No. 6 became a superstar in his home country with a finals appearance at the 2014 US Open, knocking out World No. 1 Novak Djokovic on route to the title match. As Nishikori has proven, one man is all it takes to inspire a new generation of tennis aspirants for a country renowned for it’s football success.
Prior to Nishikori’s rise, there was of course Paradorn Srichaphan who became the first Asian born man to reach the top 10 of the men’s rankings and won five ATP World Tour titles before retiring in 2010. More recently on the women’s side, there was Li Na a former Australian and French Open winner. Young Asian tennis stars have been hard to find but they are slowly emerging from the unlikeliest of countries. One player is Hyeon Chung, a 19 year-old Korean who has solidified his court craft in the challenger tour.
The current World No. 55 has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past three years and now sits on the cusp of becoming the highest ranked South Korean in history (Hyung-Taik Lee reached a career high 36 in 2007). At 6’1″ and 183lbs, the Suwon native isn’t your typical Asian tennis player and definitely has the physique to make it to the top. 2015 has been an immensely successful year for Chung on the Challenger tour, with titles in Burnie, Savannah, Busan and Kaohsuing.
The talented teenager has also had his first taste at Grand Slam level, making appearances at Wimbledon and the US Open, losing in the first and second round respectively. Game play wise, Chung is solid on both wings with strong court movement to support his game. For someone of that height, his serve does need additional work in order to win more free points. He has already demonstrated that he has the mental strength to hold himself together and rebound from adversity.
Not making the headlines early on his career could be a positive thing for Chung as he continues to strive the best he can be and when the time comes, he can grasp the opportunity with both hands. While he may not be as well known as his fellow teenagers Coric, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, Chung will be someone you will definitely hear of in the years to come.