Ваy, 와우, wow. . .
Would love to have live blogged this match. So many thoughts racing through my imagination while these two genius’ raced along the baseline to-and-fro, chasing their dreams, running from their nightmares.
There’s a bit of context to a match like this.
Penetration. The man with the most violent ground stroke (among other things) is advancing in this tournament until he meets one who walks with a bigger stick, who inflicts even more violence. The gents are back on court fighting for a major championship. The hard court weapon of choice of course includes the intimidating
discharge; the one who can impose his FH and BH with the most penetration seeks justice. Sure this sounds like a typical recipe for success in tennis, but the courts are rewarding this deeper and more aggressive shot, creating wider angles, ruthless pressure that tests the opponent’s fitness and courage in the year’s first Bo5 crucible of hard court major championship tennis.
Chung v Djokovic was a very high level exchange of big hitting, some incredible retrieving, shot-making and net finishes.
Chung outplayed Novak at Novak’s game. The S. Korean’s tennis in this R16 was on a different level from the tennis he played against Zverev, though the fourth and fifth sets of that match began to yield this super baseliner with big, penetrating ground strokes from both wings and a sometimes jaw dropping ability to dig and retrieve a Novak special delivery: return to sender. This match really highlights this particular theme. The aggressive, attacking ground strokes on these hard courts are the result of a kind of fearlessness. If you blink, you get stood-up holding an overcooked hotdog with a little too much mustard.
[By the way, I am watching Dimitrov v Edmund QF and go watch the Brit’s BP tomahawk FH on a second serve from the Bulgarian he stepped-around and destroyed. After saving three BPs on his serve for the set, Edmund has won the first set 6-4. This match is again a perfect example of brutal, physical hard court tennis where the guy with the most mustard, the most violent ground stroke is the guy getting through. We’ll see if Grigor can respond]
Dimitrov out hit Kyrgios. Shapovalov blinked in the fourth and especially the fifth, lost his heart and his attacking tennis and disintegrated against Tsonga. Nadal out hits all of this top 30 opponents and will do the same to Cilic if the Croatian doesn’t have the courage to rip the fuck out of the ball and badger the Spaniard. Zverev was strong early v Chung, as his shot penetrated the softer offerings from the goggled one. But Zverev went away, as his baseline tennis lost its nerve.
The rallies of this Djokovic v Chung match are remarkable in the stress each player is imposing on the other, chasing each other corner to corner, hitting lines, retrieving, passing brilliantly and so forth. The Chung in this R16 match plays with more threat on his ball from the first toss than he does v Zverev. Watch some of the early rallies of his match with Zverev. Chung is hitting center of the court, so Zverev is dictating. Chung playing Djokovic is playing a much more attacking style from the word go. Sounds like a solid game plan to me. If you leave a ball up or too shallow vs Novak, he’s going to finish you.
In this video, a good example of how physical this AO tennis is: scroll to 3:10 and watch Zverev win the first set. Chung is serving at 5-6, 15-40. Long rally. This is Zverev at his best, but this boldness goes away. And Chung literally evolves in this match to become the Djokovic reflection that eats the Serbian alive.
Djokollapse. We don’t need to go into his elbow here too much. When the announcement was made prior to Melbourne that the Serb was still “feeling” the elbow and pulling-out of ATP warm-ups and other exhibitions, the red flags were waving. We called the postponement ominous.
We wrote a lot about the Djokollapse, following the 2016 USO, which of course is a Mcshowism (like HeRFaRT, Nadalism, etc.). The fact that Novak took that time off in 2017 and is still not right and may be looking at surgery now? This is a tough predicament for the going-on 31-year old.
One of my premises of the Djokollapse, what has made this fall from the top tragic and almost predictable is how much tennis he’s played in his career. I mean how much big boy tennis, tennis of consequence. He’s 12-9 in major finals. He’s seen a lot of tennis moments where the rubber meets the road. Look at his Masters record.
The idea, watching this match, that this Djokovic apprentice was out-dueling the master grew legs and arms.
I posted this clip of the 2016 USO because, as I have argued before, in light of my Djokollapse, you can see the Serb literally breaking down in this match. As in broken. As in his body finally just coming apart. Especially as the match wears-on, and Stanimal is beginning to pick at the carcass.
The arm sock, the new serve motion. . .time to get serious about recovery, Mr. Djokovic. Godspeed.
Next Gen. Chung has clearly arrived. This isn’t a fluke. He won the Next Gen final, beating, among others, Rublev in the final. Other than Sascha, he’s pretty much the cream of that crop and given Sascha’s Major resume, and that R32 match, perhaps Chung has emerged as the class of that group.
Taking-out Djokovic like that is a fairly symbolic event (but it’s more complicated than that, certainly).
Penetration. Djokollapse. Next Gen. A few lenses for the biggest bombshell of the tournament so far. Tennys beating Thiem, though corny, clever and ironic, wasn’t on the same level as Chung beating Djokovic (in straights).
And again, watching the S. Korean hit the CC and DTL at will, relentlessly, his tennis lyric “run mutha fucka” bullying the Serb from the opening break through to the final TB. His court positioning was Novak-like, his ability to keep grinding, delivering brutal ground stroke after brutal ground stroke.
How about Djokovic fighting back from 0-4 in the first, holding his serve for 6-5, the Djoker roar and then Chung leveling, holding to 15 to reach the TB. He wasn’t going away.
Or at BP/SP in the 2nd, Djokovic throwing everything he has with those classic inside-out FHs, deep in the corner. Chung: try again, repeat, and pass.
Just a remarkable match from two remarkable players.
Chung euphoric in victory. Djokovic classy in defeat.