Hyeon Chung Image Credit: AFP

Abu Dhabi: Hyeon Chung, having finished the 2018 season as the highest ATP singles ranking player in South Korean tennis history by breaking into the top 25 despite injuries, believes he has enhanced his reputation and is ready for a “stronger” 2019.

Chung will begin the campaign by taking part in the invitational Mubadala World Tennis Championship.

“I will try to do my best and aim to finish 2019 season without injury,” said Chung, in an exclusive interview with Gulf News. “I think the good results will follow if I try hard and make good efforts. There are many things that I should improve, however, I will put the biggest priority in preventing injury.”

The 22-year-old had started the 2018 season in Melbourne and stunned Serbian ace Novak Djokovic en route to his first Grand Slam semi-final where he was forced to retire against Roger Federer due to severe left foot blisters.

“It was very disappointing to lose out to Federer that way, however, I did my best,” said Chung, who despite the setback became the youngest Grand Slam semi-finalist in eight years. “I was at a situation where I couldn’t continue to play the match anymore. Anyway, playing semi-finals at a Grand Slam was one of the best experiences in my tennis career.”

Despite being sidelined with injuries for few weeks, Chung came back strongly to make it to the quarter-finals of the both Indian Wells and Miami. However, again a lower leg injury saw him miss out on the entire clay and grass court seasons. He later figured in Munich, Madrid and Atlanta but his performance had clearly taken a dip.

“I will try to participate in all the tournaments that I’m planning to participate including grass court season tournaments,” said Chung. “I’m not among the ones who set a specific target but I’m more on the side that try to focus on every game.”

Chung’s pre-season preparation is all about fitness so that he can last the entire season.

“As it can be natural for a player to get injured while practice or playing tennis,” he said, “I do not worry about it. I try to keep my physical condition to the best level by discussing with my team all the time. No one wants to go too far and make hasty comeback. My clear objective is to finish the season without an injury.

Chung feels the Mubadala World Tennis Championships will help him gauge where he stands at the start of the season.

“To start a season at Mubadala World Tennis Championship is very important and meaningful tournament for me as it is played on similar surface and weather conditions of Australian Open,” he said. “It is held at a great city with wonderful people and the presence of top players makes it special. I will do my best at matches so that the fans can enjoy my play.”