A straight sets victory over Next Gen talent Chung Hyeon saw Roger Federer equal his season best start to a season ever. Currently at an impressive 16-0 for 2018, Federer has equaled the start he achieved in 2006 during his first period of total domination over tennis. And if you include his Hopman Cup matches at the start of the year, the Swiss Maestro actually sits at 19 wins and 0 losses!
In addition, as Federer once again reached the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, he will remain World #1 for at least another two weeks - fending off Rafael Nadal's chance to reclaim the top spot.
Federer will certainly be happy with the win, not just because of the records he equaled and extended with it, but also because of the way that he played. Although the Swiss experienced one momentary blip in the first set when he lost his early break lead, his level of play was high throughout the whole encounter.
It wasn't just the Swiss displaying great tennis though, as Chung also highlighted why he is such a promising talent. He demonstrated his all-court prowess, utilizing various aspects of his game including coming to the net frequently - a style of play which seems to be making a comeback with the new generation.
The South Korean proved to be a much sterner test for Federer thant Filip Krajinovic or Jeremy Chardy. Federer had a harder time holding serve compared to his match against Chardy (where he only dropped 5 points on serve), with Chung managing to break Federer in the first set despite the World #1 seeming in cruise mode.
Federer would regain control though and despite the first set looking like it was headed for a tiebreak, he managed to manoeuvre his way to two set points off Chung's serve in the 12th game. He didn't need to be asked twice, as he took the set 7-5 and marked the moment with a roaring "Come on!". There were cheers all around from the delighted crowd too, which included tennis legends Pete Sampras and Rod Laver.
Even with the first set under his belt Federer was still troubled by Chung on serve, with the South Korean missing four opportunities to break Federer in the first game of the second set. And if squandering four break points wasn't punishment enough for the young talent, he was immediately broken by the Old Master in the next game.
From that moment the fate of the match was all but decided, with Federer breaking the Chung serve again to make it 5-1. Despite a final burst of resilience from the youngster, the match was sealed with an ace to finish 7-5 6-1.
The quarterfinal match proved to be thoroughly entertaining and despite being concluded in straight sets, the crowd definitely got their money's worth. Chung was clearly outplayed by Federer in the second set, but the match was really won when Federer broke Chung for a second time to close out the first set; up until that point the match was a very even contest with both players exchanging breaks and hitting the ball big from the baseline.
This was a learning experience for the up-and-coming player; if he wants to beat the top players in the future - as he did in Melbourne - he has to take his chances when they arrive. Chung will now be focussing on Miami whilst Federer marches on into the semifinals of Indian Wells to face 21-year-old Borna Coric.
That match will once again pit the veteran maestro against a potential champion-in-the-making. Will the Old Guard hold firm again, or will the Next Gen finally break through?Published 16 Mar 2018, 19:43 IST