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“You Should Play Better than Me,” “I’ve Got A Long Way to Go, But…”

“You Should Play Better than Me,” “I’ve Got A Long Way to Go, But…”

Posted February. 01, 2005 22:59,   


Coach of Samsung Securities tennis team Joo Won-hong, who was also its tennis coach once, invited them to congratulate Kim Sun-yong, who won the juniors’ final double match and semifinal single match in the Australian Open that concluded on January 30.

Lee Hyung-taek in 2000 had his first encounter with Kim Sun-yong, then a first grader in middle school, who joined the Samsung Securities team camp. They have been getting along with each other like brothers for six years ever since. Just the day before the interview, Kim was in a country in the southern hemisphere where it is in the middle of summer. It was more than 35 degrees Celsius, but now he is here shivering in the freezing, cold winter weather, almost 50 degrees lower than what he experienced just days earlier. Kim wore a pair of new shoes. “These are what Hyung-taek bought for me in Australia as a sign of encouragement.” Lee Hyung-taek is the youngest in his family of three sons and is very considerate of Kim Sun-yong as if Kim were his real younger brother.

If Lee is a falling star, Kim can be compared to a rising one. Lee won the ATP tour tournament for the first time for a Korean, and once rose to take the ranking of 52nd among international tennis players, a record high for Korean players. For his part, Kim ascended to take first place of the international junior ranking earlier this year.

Lee says, “When I first met Sun-yong, he was so young that we could not get training together. Now I feel that he has grown up so much.” Kim, in response, says, “At first, I couldn’t even look him into eyes because he felt like a real, big star. Yet, he has taught me a lot so far. For me, being a player like him has been my permanent goal.”

Lee Hyung-taek, during his school years, played in Korea only so he does not have a recorded international junior ranking. He was able to advance into international stages only after he joined the Samsung Securities tennis team. Therein lies the reason why he often is envious of Kim Sun-yong, who has a better physique and is growing with great plans and support from Samsung.

Lee in November of last year played against Kim in the national tennis championship, the first of its kind, and made a decisive victory by winning 2-0 (6-0 and 6-2.) After all, Kim Sun-yong, though he is now dominating the international junior matches, still has far to go to match Lee.

Lee says, “I think I will be able to retire more comfortably only when Sun-yong expedites his victory over me.”

Kim replies, “I still have far to go to catch up with you, but wait just a little.”

A sight of these two, who know how to help and encourage each other, signals the bright future of Korean tennis players ahead.

Jong-Seok Kim kjs0123@donga.com