Lee becomes first deaf player to win an ATP main draw match

Lee Duck-hee

The tour's first deaf professional player said he doesn't want to be defined by the disability that he has overcome well enough to play at the sport's highest level.

The South Korean is now No. 212 and will face world No. 40 Hubert Hurkacz in the second round.

He added: "My message for people who are hearing impaired is to not be discouraged".

"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.

South Korea's Lee Duck-hee has become the first deaf player to win a match in the main draw of a tournament on the ATP Tour. Players often insist on silence during points so they can hear the ball off their opponent's strings and identify the spin in a split-second.

"I never expected to get through this one", said Lee, who had won the final three points of the first-set tiebreaker.

"It's obviously a huge disadvantage, so to be able to do what he's doing is a huge effort".

The ability to hear carries a particular importance in tennis. "I am excited, nervous and will do my best".


The 22-year-old Czech next faces U.S. wildcard Kristie Ahn, who beat Switzerland's Jil Teichmann earlier in the day.

"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".

Complicating things further, he also doesn't speak English and reads lips instead of using sign language.

Lee can not hear calls from line judges or umpire.

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

Lee begun playing tennis at the age of seven, the year after he realised he was deaf, and admitted that he had been ridiculed growing up.

"I'm going to go to the match with the same attitude", said Lee, who has pursued his tennis dream despite the difficulties posed by his disability. He brought a No. 212 world ranking to the central North Carolina hardcourts.

Lee's victory had been delayed by five hours, with thunderstorms sweeping through the area with him two points away for victory but when they returned to the court, Lee quickly finished off his opponent to claim a win he says he wasn't expecting.

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