Duane Fonseca, Special to Gulf News
Abu Dhabi: Injury seems to have put things into perspective for one-time Korean sensation Hyeon Chung, who will look to re-establish himself on the ATP Tour in 2020 starting with the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC), that gets under way in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
The 23-year-old reached the semi-finals of the 2018 Australian Open, but was forced to miss a major part of the 2019 campaign due to injuries to his leg and back. He did manage to qualify for the US Open, but fell to fellow MWTC prospect and world No. 1 Rafael Nadal at Flushing Meadows.
But after declaring his body is starting to feel better, Chung revealed his second career goal now “would be to try and play better than last year”.
At a pre-tournament meet with the press in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, the South Korean revealed a desire to return to his glorious past, which not so long ago saw him ranked as high as world No. 19.
“I’m just going to try and stay healthy and that’s my top priority,” said the current World No. 128.
“I was injured last year so keeping fit and healthy is my first goal. My second one would be to try and play better than last year. It’s always tough to come back from injuries, but I’m just trying to do my best and enjoy every moment.
“Everyone’s playing well. The young ones are playing really well and I’m just glad to be part of that group and want to try and get back into it. I’m just trying to do my best and I’m really excited to play.”
Abu Dhabi could be a great stepping stone for him heading into 2020, a year in which Tokyo will stage the Olympics. Chung will use Abu Dhabi to fine tune his skills as he looks to up his ranking for a chance to represent his nation at the quadrennial event.
“If I have a chance to play the Olympics, I sure want to do that because it’s a goal for everyone to try and play for their country so I would consider it,” said Chung, who will start his Abu Dhabi campaign against Russia’s Karen Khachanov, a late draft alongside compatriot Andrey Rublev to fill in for Gael Monfils and Daniil Medvedev.
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Novak Djokovic are the other players in the tournament and have been given a bye to the semi-finals.
Spaniard Nadal will play the winner of the Chang v Khachanov, while Serbia’s Djokovic locks horns with the winner of the quarter-final involving Rublev and World No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Venue: Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex
Thursday: Starting 4pm: Stefanos Tsitsipas v Andrey Rublev; not before 6pm: Karen Khachanov v Hyeon Chung; not before 8pm: Maria Sharapova v Ajla Tomljanovic
Friday: not before 5pm: Novak Djokovic v Tsitsipas/Rublev; Not before 7pm: Rafael Nadal v Khachanov/Chung
Saturday: 5pm: Third Place Play-Off; not before 7pm: MWTC Championship match.