Deaf South Korean tennis player Lee notches landmark win

Ross Houston
August 22, 2019

Duck-hee Lee was excited to be part of the main draw.

But the 28-year-old American broke back and then served out the match to set up a second round clash with Canadian second seed Denis Shapovalov. He was born deaf. They told me I shouldn't be playing, "Lee told reporters".

His first appearance in a top-level tournament will last at least until the second round.

South Korean tennis player Lee Duck-hee has made history, ...becoming the first deaf athlete to win an A-T-P Tour match.

"Don't be discouraged, and if you try hard, you can do anything, you can achieve anything you want", he said through an interpreter after his win.

"I know how important hearing is in tennis", he added.

He is extremely reliant on eyesight and movement to make up for an inability to hear the ball off his opponent's racquet.

Britain's Andy Murray is among players to have come out in support of Lee, adding it must be "difficult" to play without being able to "pick up the speed of the ball" by hearing the sound.

Complicating things further, he also doesn't speak English and reads lips instead of using sign language. This is my first ATP main draw match.

"If I was to play with headphones on, it's unbelievably hard to pick up the speed of the ball, the spin that's coming off the racquet", Murray said.

Lee's debut in Winston-Salem marked his next step up the tennis ladder.

He played mainly in Asia before switching to hard courts in the U.S., reaching his first final in three years at Little Rock in June.

"People made fun of me for my disability and said I shouldn't be playing", he said.

"I thought that I was just going to do my best and try to stay focused, but I came out a victor", Lee said.

He showed glimpses of his once-dominant self, but was inconsistent in a 7-6 (10-8), 7-5 loss to 73rd-ranked Tennys Sandgren of the United States in a match lasting 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Murray was broken in the opening game of the second set and fell 3-0 behind before breaking back to leave the set poised at 5-5.

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