Fifteen months ago, Hyeon Chung was ranked inside the top-20, pumped after winning the NextGen Masters at the end of 2017 and reaching the semi-final at the Australian Open in January. After positive vibes in March and the quarter-final at both Indian Wells and Miami, this hard-working but injury-prone youngster had to miss almost the entire clay and grass season due to a lower leg injury, competing only in Munich and Madrid and making a slow return in Atlanta at the end of July, struggling to get back where he was four months earlier.
The ranking was still there thanks to that Melbourne fuel but the results were not, delivering just nine victories by the end of the season that he terminated earlier than expected due to right foot blisters. Still ranked in the top-25, the Korean spent the offseason in Thailand, working on physical strength and on developing tools to play more aggressively in 2019 and avoid those injuries that had prevented him from achieving even more in the previous years.
Instead of that, Hyeon started to feel back pain and entered only four ATP tournaments in the first two months, losing early in Pune, Auckland, Melbourne and Rotterdam before deciding to take a break and treat the injury.
After many delays, Hyeon stayed away from the court for more than five months, dropping out from the top-150 for the first time since February 2015 and starting all over at Chengdu Challenger, entering the first event after a long break as the 2nd seed and facing Kento Takeuchi in the second round.
Battling on the Challenger level for the first time since Maui in January 2017, Hyeon took down the Japanese 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and 13 minutes, landing some solid numbers on both serve and return to find himself over the top and set the third-round clash with Dayne Kelly where he should be the favorite as well.
Chung lost only four points behind the first serve, facing two break points and suffering one break that he easily erased with a dominant performance on the return, stealing half of the points behind Takeuchi's initial shot and earning four breaks from 12 opportunities to control the scoreboard all the time.
The Japanese saved four break points in the fourth game, three of those with winners before Hyeon moved in front with a break at 3-2 following a forehand winner. Kento broke back in the next game thanks to an efficient net rush but the momentum couldn't stay on his side for too long as Hyeon broke again in game eight to regain the advantage.
Serving for the set, the Korean saved a break point in game nine and closed the opener with a forced error from Takeuchi. Hyeon lost three points on serve in set number two and broke a left-hander in the first game when Kento sprayed a backhand error.
Firing from both cylinders, Chung grabbed another break in game three to extend the advantage and sealed the deal with four service winners at 5-2 to secure the first victory since February.