Chung Hyeon has said regaining his fitness and enjoying an injury-free season are his top priorities as the South Korean player continues his preparations for 2020 by competing in next week’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC).
Chung, 23, has long been regarded as one of the finest young talents on the ATP Tour, although fitness issues have so far affected his short career.
Since becoming a regular on the top-level tour in 2015, Chung has only completed two full seasons. His 2016 campaign was blighted by a four-month spell on the sidelines with an abdominal injury, 2018 proved stop-start due to a leg issue, while 2019 was blighted by a back complaint. Understandably, Chung’s chief focus for the new season is to get healthy.
"Everything in pre-season has been going well," Chung told The National. "My body feels pretty good now and I'm really excited to start the new season."
Before the new season starts next month, Chung will have the chance to test his game and fitness against some of the world’s best players at MWTC, the three-day exhibition tournament taking place December 19-21 at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi.
The six-player event, entering its 12th edition, will also feature the ATP Tour’s top-two players, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, world No 5 Daniil Medvedev, and 10th-ranked Gael Monfils.
The one-off women's match, now into its third year, will see five-time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova take on Australia's Fed Cup finalist Ajla Tomljanovic.
“I played in Abu Dhabi for the first time last year and I am excited to be back,” said Chung, whose MWTC debut 12 months ago ended in defeat to eventual finalist Kevin Anderson.
“I am really happy to be playing against some of the best players in the world, so I hope I can play well against them.”
If Chung wants to better last year’s result, the South Korean will need to get past Medvedev on Day One. The Russian is yet to beat Chung in two meetings on the ATP Tour, although since their last encounter at the 2018 Australian Open – where Chung became the first Korean to reach a grand slam semi-final – Medvedev has made great strides, winning six titles and reaching a first major final. Chung, therefore, is expecting a tough challenge.
“[Medvedev] has had a pretty good season, reaching the US Open final,” he said. “We’ve played each other a lot, growing up on the juniors and on the tour, so I’m looking forward to playing against him.”
However, at this stage results are less important than fitness for Chung, who has slipped from a career-high No 19 in the rankings to No 129 as a result of his injury-hit 2019 – although he did share one tangible goal for 2020.
“First of all I just want to stay healthy on the tour for the whole season,” he said. “Then I would like to get back into the top 20, if I can.”