Wimbledon 2013: Hearing impaired Korean tennis junior laments never hearing crowd roar

Updated: 30 June 2013 13:25 IST

Rafael Nadal draws inspiration from Lee Duck-Hee, a 15-year-old tennis junior who is completely deaf but does not see it as a hindrance on court -- except that he will never hear anyone cheering him on.

Wimbledon 2013: Hearing impaired Korean tennis junior laments never hearing crowd roar

London:

Rafael Nadal draws inspiration from Lee Duck-Hee, a 15-year-old tennis junior who is completely deaf but does not see it as a hindrance on court -- except that he will never hear anyone cheering him on.

The South Korean, making his debut at Wimbledon in the boys' events, was born hearing imparied and however far his career takes him, his achievements will always be played out in silence.

His unusual story has already caught the attention of Grand Slam greats Nadal and Roger Federer, who have been aware of his exploits from an early age.

Painstakingly conversing through lip-reading with his father, some writing in Korean, and then into English through his agent, Lee said he relies on instinct to compensate for being unable to hear his opponent striking the ball.

On court, he cannot hear the line calls nor the umpire, how loudly the ball comes off the racquet or the grunt of his opponents when they hit the ball, but does not view it as a handicap.

"When I play tennis, my hearing doesn't give me any difficulty. No problems at all," he told AFP.

"If I was to hear, I want to hear the fans cheering.

"I feel -- by my body, I've got the instinct -- the reaction of the opponent. So I already think he's going to hit harder or slower, even though I don't hear it, though actually through my eyes I've got the instinct and can get the sound of the opponent.

"From now on, I've got to build up that instinct, so I'll do it. No problem that the opponents makes whatever sound, whatever body language he does I don't really care about it.

"Because I cannot hear, I have already overcome this disability so as far as I'm concerned it doesn't matter at all. I'm growing up and that instinct will grow."

From Jaechon in central South Korea, the right-hander has already won a series of junior titles and has his sights set on Grand Slam glory one day.

Lee made his debut on the Wimbledon grass in the singles, losing to Chilean seventh seed Christian Garin 6-2, 4-6, 2-6 on Court 15 on Saturday, but has another shot in the boys' doubles on his favourite surface.

"It's another match but it is Wimbledon so I'm experiencing a lot and probably I got something out of this game," he said.

"It was my first time experiencing this and I wanted to win badly but I was unlucky. I want to win the juniors next year and then join the main tour as soon as possible.

"I'm really enjoying the tennis, going all over the world and travelling to the big events, having many experiences and really having fun.

"It's very hard to travel a lot from Korea with the flying schedules but that is a problem I have to face."

When asked about his favourite tennis idols, he is in no doubt: Novak Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.

When Nadal and Federer played an exhibition match in Seoul in 2006, Lee was invited along and got to practice with the two greats.

Nadal has kept his eye on the emerging youngster and spread the word to his 4.6 million Twitter followers when Lee earned his first ATP ranking point in April.

"A overcoming story of #DuckHeeLee teaches us that we must fight!" the 12-time Grand Slam champion wrote.

With the inspiration flowing both ways between Lee and the Spanish great, the South Korean might yet realise his dream of making a big noise on the main tour.

Topics : Wimbledon 2013 Tennis
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