Novak Djokovic suffered a recurrence of his elbow problems and was beaten in the fourth round of the Australian Open by an inspired Chung Hyeon.
The 21-year-old Korean showed Djokovic-like powers of defence and a steely nerve at the big moments to take advantage of his opponent’s troubles and win 7-6 (7/4) 7-5 7-6 (7/3).
Djokovic arrived at Melbourne Park unsure of how his body and his game would hold up having not played since Wimbledon because of the elbow issue.
It was a mixed bag over the first three rounds, with his remodelled service action at times vulnerable, but there had been no clue his elbow had been a problem until he called for the trainer after losing the opening set 7-4 to Chung on a tie-break.
Djokovic had fought back from a horrible start, in which he served four consecutive double faults and lost the first four games, to make it 6-6 but then played a wild tie-break.
The pain and frustration were evident as Djokovic then lost the opening three games of the second set, swiping angrily at the ball and making no effort to chase down several shots.
All of which was to take nothing away from 21-year-old Chung, who is enjoying his best run at a slam and knocked out fellow young star Alexander Zverev in the last round.
The Korean won the inaugural NextGen Finals in Zverev’s absence in November and, if he can continue this form, could be challenging for the biggest titles very soon, perhaps even this fortnight.
He will certainly be favoured in the next round against American Tennys Sandgren, an even more unlikely quarter-finalist following his upset of Dominic Thiem.
Welcome to the big time Hyeon #Chung! 🙌
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 22, 2018
To his credit, Djokovic refocused and fought back to level at 4-4 in the second only for Chung to force a set point and take it after a memorable rally where he repelled everything the six-time champion could throw at him before Djokovic netted.
The Serbian at times looked like the old Djokovic but too often, and especially at big moments, he threw in uncharacteristic errors that betrayed turmoil in his mind. He fought back from 3-1 down in the third set and should have broken for 4-3 only to miss a volley with the whole court open.
Chung, meanwhile, looked completely nerveless on the biggest stage of his career and held firm to force another tie-break.
A quiet character, he was whipping up the crowd after winning another superb point with a forehand pass to lead 5-3 and when Djokovic drove a backhand wide on Chung’s first match point, the upset was complete.