MELBOURNE: Roger Federer has welcomed the infusion of fresh new faces at the Australian Open, saying it’s good regeneration for tennis.
The year’s opening Grand Slam has been notable for the emergence of South Korea’s Chung Hyeon and British hope Kyle Edmund.
The young guns have made their mark with some spectacular upsets of the established order and are playing in their first major semi-finals in Melbourne.
Federer faces 21-year-old Chung, who rocked the tournament with his upset of six-time champion Novak Djokovic, while Edmund, 23, dumped out world No.3 Grigor Dimitrov.
Edmund, ranked 49 and only the fourth British man to reach the last four in Melbourne in the post-1968 Open Era, takes on former US Open champion Marin Cilic for a place in Sunday’s final.
Federer, a 19-time Grand Slam champion, is enthusiastic about facing Chung and the emergence of new talent in big-time tennis, particularly with injuries hampering many of the sport’s big stars.
“I think it’s a good thing. They got to make a move,” said the 36-year-old.
“I find it disappointing when some of their breakthroughs come at 27, because then we know them for seven years, let’s say. I like it when we don’t know the guys.
“I like it because it’s really something totally new to me and to some extent for you guys (media), too.
“It’s not going to happen all the time. We like our rivalries that do exist on the tour. But new names are good, from time to time, of course for the tour.”
Federer, who is chasing his sixth Australian title, is looking forward to facing the bespectacled Chung for the first time.
“I’m very excited to play Chung. I thought he played an incredible match against Novak,” he said.
“I mean, to beat him here is one of the tough things to do in our sport. I know that Novak maybe wasn’t at 100 percent, but he was giving it a fight till the very end.
“To close it out, that was mighty impressive and shows that Chung’s had good composure, a great mindset.”
– No expectations –
Federer is also impressed with the progress of Edmund, who has ably stepped up after the pre-tournament injury withdrawal of fellow Briton and five-time finalist Andy Murray.
“Somebody who is in the semis, to me, is two steps away. A lot of stuff can happen. It’s a good situation to be in,” he said of Edmund.
“He can hit freely now. No expectations whatsoever. He’ll maybe never be in this position ever again, to have so little expectations in some ways.
“It’s nice to see the turnaround through the off-season, coming here, playing well. It’s big for him.
“If you stick around, good things happen, like when he won his 39-degree heat match against Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-5 in the fifth, that was tough. He fought it out.
“Next thing you know, he’s playing great tennis. He recovered somehow, because he’s young. Great, great effort.”
The emergence of Chung and Edmund follows the rise last season of the so-called “NextGen” youngsters, including Canada’s Denis Shapovalov and Russian Andrey Rublev, while Germany’s 20-year-old Alexander Zverev has climbed to four in the rankings.