South Korea is home to Samsung, Hyundai, LG, Kia Motors and over 52 million people. Here in the Philiippines, it is estimated that over 1.5 million Koreans visited the country in 2017. In the realm of sports, the Winter Olympic games will be held in Pyeongchang (about 180 kms. from Seoul) next month, from February 9 to 25. If we consider the most popular sports in Korea, they are football and baseball. With golf, the lady golfers dominate: five of the world’s Top 12 money earners come from Korea, including Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu.
There’s a new star in Korean sports: Hyeon Chung. If you haven’t heard of him before this week, you’re forgiven. Ranked No. 58 and only 21 years old, he’s not a famous name in tennis. But after winning five of five thus far in the Australian Open, this 6-foot-2 netter is now one of Korea’s most famous personalities.
Last Monday, I watched his Round of 16 battle against six-time Oz Open winner Novak Djokovic. What a display of steady and power tennis. We know Djokovic is not at his peak yet, having returned from a six-month layoff. But the performance of Chung (including a win over Sascha Zverez) was outstanding. He is a legitimate future Top 10 player.
The question is: Can he beat the defending champion, Roger Federer, in the semis (granted that RF won his quarterfinals last night) ? The odds are absolutely against Chung. He will have to play even better compared to how he played Novak. He will have nothing to lose but the heavy favorite to win the whole tournament and to pocket his 20th Grand Slam title is the gentleman from Basel, Switzerland.
Still, Korea is rejoicing with the emergence of their new tennis star.