A PHYSICALLY below-par Kyle Edmund narrowly failed to get the one set we needed from him against Marin Cilic on Thursday, with the Brit struggling with a hip injury, having a MTO after set one and fading after set two.

One duff line call was unfortunate in the second set tie-break when Edmund was well in the point on Cilic’s serve, so again were a tad unlucky, but the Brit was physically impaired on the day and by the end was dollying his serves in, barely running and hoping Cilic would implode – usually not a bad tactic to be fair.

It was good news though for my 33-1 each-way punt on Cilic from last October and hopefully a few followed that from my pre-tournament outright preview, but it’s not much help for the profit and loss figures unfortunately.

Conditions

It looks like the roof on Rod Laver Arena may be called into service on Friday, with thunderstorms expected in Melbourne from 17:00 until 22:30 local time according to the forecast.

Hyeon Chung vs Roger Federer

This first career meeting between the 36-year-old 19-time major champion and the 21-year-old Chung, who before this fortnight had made only one main level semi final – on clay in Munich last season (lost to Guido Pella).

Federer brings a record of 29-13 in major semi finals, with his only defeat to an opponent not ranked inside the top-10 coming to Marin Cilic in the 2014 US Open.

Unlike Cilic, it won’t be raw power and big serving that Chung brings to the table, but a Djokovic-like athleticism, flat accurate hitting off both wings and at the moment seemingly limitless energy and fitness.

In short, Fed may well be facing a newer, younger version of Djokovic, but is it too soon for Chung to be beating the Swiss maestro in a major semi final at this stage of his career? Probably.

Chung has posted some excellent service hold/break stats for his first 10 matches of 2018 on outdoor hard at main level, with 85.1% holds/25.1% breaks for a 110.1 total, so he’s upped his level by about 10% since last season on those numbers.

He’s still very much unproven at this level though, with a 3-10 record versus top-10 opponents (two of the wins were against Alexander Zverev and the other a David Goffin returning from injury).

Federer, as you’d expect, is talking Chung up by saying of Chung’s win over Novak Djokovic: “I know that Novak maybe wasn't at 110 percent, but he was all right.”

I can’t agree with that, Rog. Djokovic was miles away from his best level and physical condition and although it was clearly a great win for Chung I’m not sure we should go overboard about it.

My concern in backing Chung as a 6.0 underdog here is two fold: that he’s very inexperienced at this level and that Federer may well be able to boss Chung about in quick conditions with his forehand.

Kyle Edmund has really had Chung on the back foot in their two career meetings with his powerful forehand and Chung hasn’t met anyone that attacking yet this fortnight.

And with the roof likely to be closed the conditions will be perfect for Federer, with little in the way of strong winds indoors to hamper his attacking game.

A third possible reason for doubting Chung here is the similarity (in age and lack of ever having played so much tennis back-to-back) between he and Edmund, with the Brit cracking physically and not being able to give his best in the semis.

Chung has only twice previously in his career played five matches at a single tournament and both of those were best-of-three sets, so it’s very much uncharted territory for him here.

If he’s fit and ready to go Chung’s athleticism and defensive ability could make this a very entertaining clash, but as he does rely rather a lot on movement and physicality I’m not of a mind to risk him in a match like this.

Federer’s currently holding serve 93.5% of the time in his last 10 matches on outdoor hard at main level (92.1% in his 34 matches in these conditions in the last 12 months) and Chung will surely feel the pressure to hold serve to be too much at times.

Federer hasn’t faced anyone as low-ranked as Chung in a major semi final since beating 75th ranked Marat Safin at Wimbledon 2008 and since losing to Safin in the 2005 Australian Open semi final only two non-big four players have beaten the Swiss in a Grand Slam semi – Cilic and Milos Raonic.

Best Bet

  • 1.5 points win under 35.5 games (1.97, Unibet)
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