South Korean is first deaf player to win ATP Tour match

As a child, people made fun of Duckhee Lee, telling him he should not be playing tennis.

On Monday, the South Korean proved the doubters wrong by becoming the first deaf player to win a match in the main draw of the ATP Tour.

The 21-year-old, ranked 212 in the world, saw off Swiss world No. 120 Henri Laaksonen 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 at the Winston-Salem Open in North Carolina.

“People made fun of me for my disability. They told me I shouldn’t be playing,” Lee told reporters. “It was definitely difficult, but my friends and family helped me get through. I wanted to show everyone that I could do this.

“My message for people who are hearing-impaired is to not be discouraged. If you try hard, you can do anything.”

‘Huge effort’

According to the ATP Tour website, Lee — diagnosed as deaf at age 2 — can’t hear line calls or the score being called, which means he has to rely on signals from the umpire or people on his team.

Taught to lipread in Korean as a child, the right-hander does not know sign language.

During the post-match press conference, a tournament volunteer translated English questions in Korean to Lee’s fiancee, Soopin, who acted as a conduit between Lee and reporters.

Three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray praised Lee for his achievement.

“If I was to play with headphones on, it’s unbelievably difficult to pick up the speed of the ball, the spin that’s coming off the racket. We use our ears a lot to pick things up,” the former world No.1 was quoted as saying on the ATP Tour site.

“It’s obviously a huge disadvantage, so to be able to do what he’s doing is a huge effort.”

Lee will next play Poland’s Hubert Hurkacs on Tuesday in the second round and told reporters: “I’m going to go to the match with the same attitude. I’m going to do my best and see what happens.”