Duck-hee becomes first deaf player to win ATP main-draw match
Lee Duck-hee, a tennis player from South Korea, scripted history when he became the first deaf player to win a match in the main draw of an ATP Tour event. Duck-hee beat Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 7-6, 6-1 in the Winston-Salem Open in North Carolina on Monday. The event is a part of ATP 250 series and the final one before US Open 2019.
Following the match, Duck-hee said that initially, he was made fun due to his disability, while people said he should not be playing the sport. However, he was determined to prove that he could do it. "My message for people who are hearing impaired is to not be discouraged. If you try hard, you can do anything," said Duck-hee.
Meanwhile, British tennis star Andy Murray is in awe of Duck-hee's support, acknowledging that it is difficult for him to play without picking up the ball speed through the sound. "It's obviously a huge disadvantage, so to be able to do what he's doing is a huge effort. We [tennis players] use our ears a lot to pick things up," said Murray.
Interestingly, despite being deaf, Duck-hee does not use the sign language as the medium of communication. Since childhood, he was taught to learn lip-reading in Korean and he uses the very same mode quite perfectly.
Talking about Duck-hee's ATP career, it all started at the age of 14 during an ATP Challenger Tour. He has now been regularly playing the Challenger events for the past four years. Most of his success was limited to Asia, as his efforts in the hard-court of the USA are finally paying off. Prior to Winston-Salem, he reached a Challenger final in June.
As far as his career is concerned, his highest rank in the ITF Junior Combined rankings is number 3. By the age of 18, he had won eight ITF titles and was runner-up three times. He was also runner-up on two occasions in the Challengers.
Following his splendid win in the opening round, third seed Hubert Hurkacz awaits Duck-hee in the second round of the tournament. While he is currently ranked 212 in the ATP Rankings, he would soon look to break into the Top 100. "I'm going to go to the match with the same attitude. I'm going to do my best and see what happens," he concluded.