MELBOURNE, Australia – Former champion Angelique Kerber was in a dominant mood Wednesday, January 24, to thrash Madison Keys and make the Australian Open semi-finals, as the dream Grand Slam run of giantkiller Chung Hyeon continued.
Germany's Kerber, champion two years ago, swept aside Keys 6-1, 6-2, easily taming the American's big serve to set up a clash with world number one Simona Halep or Czech 6th seed Karolina Pliskova for a place in the final.
South Korea's Chung battled past unheralded American Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena to become the lowest-ranked semi-finalist since Marat Safin in 2004.
Ranked 58, the bespectacled 21-year-old, nicknamed "The Professor", proved too hot for fellow quarter-final rookie Sandgren, although he needed 6 match points before claiming victory.
"I'm just trying to stay focused, it's my first time in one of these matches," said the delighted Suwon native, who is the first player – man or woman – from his country to reach a Grand Slam semi-final.
Next up for Chung, who has already knocked out 6-time winner Novak Djokovic and 4th seed Alexander Zverev, is either defending champion Roger Federer or veteran Czech Tomas Berdych, who play an evening match.
Kerber, who won the title in 2016, is in scintillating form and is now on a 14-match win streak in Australia after an unbeaten singles campaign in the Hopman Cup and her triumph in the Sydney warm-up.
Keys was expected to be a stiff challenge, having not dropped a set en route to the quarters, but she melted under the German's relentless groundstrokes and pinpoint return of serve.
"I'm just trying to find the feeling back I had like 2016," said Kerber, who had a forgettable 2017 after winning not only in Australia but also the US Open in 2016.
"Madison is a hard hitter, and she served good. So I was trying to playing from the first point aggressive and moving good and also bringing a lot of balls back," she added.
The win ensures Kerber, seeded 21, will move back into the world's top 10.
Nothing for granted
It was a disappointing end for Keys, who also capitulated 6-3, 6-0 to Sloane Stephens in the final at Flushing Meadows last year.
"I'm not going to walk away from this tournament and think it was terrible because I had one bad match. I think it's just going to take a little bit of time," she insisted.
Swiss great Federer, zeroing in on a sixth Australian title and a 20th Grand Slam crown, holds a 19-6 lead over 19th seed Berdych dating back to their first meeting in 2004, and is also 4-0 over him in Melbourne.
But he is taking nothing for granted.
"I'm looking forward to play against him. He seems in good shape and I'm happy he's over his back issues that he also had at the end of last year," said Federer, who is 15 years older than his next opponent Chung.
Halep will carry a painful ankle injury into her afternoon clash with the towering Pliskova, but she is determined to put it out of her mind. Both of them are searching for their first major title.
"It is going to be a new match. You never know what's going to happen," Halep said after a tiring run to the last 8.
The Romanian beat the Czech in 3 sets in their only Grand Slam encounter, on clay in the semi-final at Roland Garros last season. – Rappler.com