Australian Open

SA’s Godwin helps Chung reach tennis summit

2018-01-24 11:29
Hyeon Chung (AP)

Cape Town - After coaching South African number one Kevin Anderson to his best career result in reaching the final of the US Open last September, former South African Davis Cup player Neville Godwin might have fancied his chances of playing a role up to the semi-final stage of the current Australian Open.

The prospect appeared largely to evaporate when Anderson and Godwin surprisingly terminated their lengthy partnership at the end of last year.

But lo and behold an undaunted Godwin is still very much an active participant in the tournament at Melbourne Park as the coach of new 21-year-old South Korean sensation Hyeon Chung - who now has his sights set on reaching the final of the opening Grand Slam of the year.

The irony of this remarkable, unforeseen situation, of course, is that the 11th-seeded Anderson made an early first-round exit from Australian Open, while the largely unheralded, 58th world-ranked Chung has accounted for three seeded players in reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open - accounting for the Zverev brothers, Mischa and Alexander, before a sensational 7-6 (7/4), 7-5, 7-6 (7/3) triumph in the fourth round in upending six-time former champion Novak Djokovic.

Chung's straight-sets win over American Tennys Sandgren on Wednesday powered him into the semi-finals.

In a message from Melbourne earlier this week, Godwin revealed that he had negotiated a 26-week contract to coach Chung in 2018 after being approached by the diminutive, but irrepressible South Korean's agent.

"I really had no personal contact with Hyeon before receiving the offer," said Godwin, "although I knew he had won the ATP's innovative 'Next Generations' championships in Milan in November and had been nicknamed 'The Wall'  for his exceptional retrieving ability."

So, in the circumstance, Godwin decided to accept the challenge of building on Chung's all-round game and everything has turned out better than he could have expected.

"The standard of play in the game against Djokovic was of an exceptional level," added Godwin, "and although Novak is coming back after injury, Hyeon put up an awesome performance in beating an all-time great at his own game against someone who was also his boyhood hero."

Chung's opponent in the quarter-finals was another uncanny Australian Open dark horse in the form of Sandren, who incidentally also has a South African connection in that his mother grew up in the country.

And, in the meantime, adding to Godwin's satisfaction over Chung's high-class win over the former world No 1 is the fact that he was in Anderson's corner at Wimbledon two years ago when South Africa's No 1 led Djokovic by two sets to love - only to eventually tumble to a five-set defeat.

Godwin also confirmed that apart from his link-up with Chung, he has signed up as a consultant with Tennis South Africa during 2018.

And with the election by his peers as ATP's elite "Coach of the Year" for 2018 as well, any trauma surrounding Godwin's break-up with Anderson has clearly taken a spectacular turn for better.

In the semi-finals, Chung will face either defending champion Roger Federer or Czech Tomas Berdych, who square off later on Wednesday.

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