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Victory Dreamed of for 100 Years

Posted January. 12, 2003 22:21,   


A boy from the countryside tops the world.

It was Lee Hyung-tack. He was born in Huisung, a rural part of Kangwon Province. His father passed away when he was only 10 years old. He has hinged all his dreams on the tennis racket ever since the death. He beat Juan Carlos Ferrero in the final of the men`s singles of ATP Tour Adidas International held in Sydney, Australia on January 11. Thus, he got to top the world in 17 years since he first started tennis when he was 10 years old.

After his father`s death, his mother ran a small family restaurant to survive. Lee, however tough road he was going through, has never let the tennis racket out of his hands. He usually exercises 12 hours a day. It is well-known that he always carried a dumbbell with him to build up his grasping power all through his high school and college days. When he was a high school senior, he won 42 matches in a row and grabbed 6 championships.

Lee`s winning a championship was not a play of luck; it was a result of his sweats. He, for the first time for a Korean player, advanced to the round of 16 in the US Open in 2000. Again in 2001, he made his way to the final of the ATP Tour, the first ever in the history of the Korean tennis. He also put himself within top 100 on the world ranking, an achievement every Korean player dreamed of. He continuously marched ahead and ranked himself within top 60 in the world in August of 2001.

Last year, however, he failed to win the gold medal in Busan Asian Games. It was the toughest time ever throughout his career. But he would not let himself down. He pitched in more and trained harder. Then, he won the championship of the Yokohama Challenger by the end of last year. He indulged himself in hard weight training to build up power. Based on the strengthened power, he honed various serving and net play techniques.

What motivated him too was the excellent performance of another Asian player Paradorn Srichaphan (Thailand). In the past, Srichaphan was not considered a match to Lee. But Srichaphan won two tours and pulled his ranking up to within top ten in the world last year. Motivated by Srichaphan`s performance, Lee told himself all the time, "I could make it, too."

Winning a championship of a tennis tour is deemed equivalent to that of the US PGA Tour for pro golfers. Gofers may have better conditions. They have 4 days to the end, and, therefore, have ample time to make up for a "lost day." For tennis players, however, one lost day means the end of the story for the championship. For this reason, South Korean tennis players and experts equal Lee`s victory to that of Choi Kyung-joo in the US PGA Tour last year. On the other hand, Lee`s alma mater Kunkuk University plans to hold a huge ceremony as soon as Lee comes back from Australia.

Jong-Seok Kim kjs0123@donga.com