Sidelined since February, Hyeon Chung makes winning return in Chengdu


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Sidelined since February, Hyeon Chung makes winning return in Chengdu

The 1996 generation has brought some of the most successful young stars in the last decade or so and for the most of the time their leader was Hyeon Chung. The Korean won the NextGen Masters in Milan in 2017, building the momentum ahead of 2018 when he reached the semi-final at the Australian Open and cracked the top-20 in April after the quarter-final run at Indian Wells and Miami.

The talented but injury-prone player had to slow down after that, struggling with a leg injury that halted his progress and forced him to skip Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Making a return in Atlanta, Hyeon gave his best to hit the winning flow again but that turned to be harder than he expected, ending the season in Stockholm and working hard on a comeback before the beginning of the new season.

More troubles waited just around the corner, as Chung started to feel back pain that pushed him further back, playing only five matches at four tournaments and skipping all the action since Rotterdam in February. After numerous delays, Hyeon is finally back on the court, entering the first Challenger draw in Chengdu since Maui in January 2017 and winning the ninth title at this level, the third in the last four tournaments.

Ranked 166th, Hyeon took down Kento Takeuchi, Di Wu, Ji Sung Nam and Tatsuma Ito to advance into the 12th Challenger final where he toppled the 6th seed Yuichi Sugita 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 27 minutes to win the title and much-needed points on the comeback trail.

Hyeon saved his best tennis for the final, losing nine points behind the initial shot and creating 11 break points to mount the pressure on Sugita, converting three to seal the deal in straight sets. Settling into a nice rhythm on serve right from the very first ball, Chung lost two points behind the initial shot in the opening set, wasting seven break chances before seizing the eighth following a forehand error from the Japanese that pushed him 3-2 up.

Serving for the opener at 5-4, Hyeon landed three service winners to gain a boost ahead of set number two where he saved a break point in the first service game to keep the initial shot intact. Yuichi couldn't do the same, though, getting broken at 2-2 after a loose backhand and pushing Chung over the top after another break in game nine.