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Fighting Spirit of Hyung-taik Lee

Posted August. 29, 2007 07:22,   


He could barely walk. The pain almost killed him. But he stood up and played.

Hundreds of Korean-Americans cheered for him, and encouraged Lee to pull out a victory.

Ranking 43rd in the world, Korean star tennis player Hyung-taik Lee won his first-round match against strong opponent Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia yesterday in the men’s singles of the U.S. Open held in New York. The severe pain halted the match twice. But Lee did not give up.

In his next match, Lee will take on Guillermo Canas of Argentina, who ranks 14th in the world. Back in 2000, Lee advanced to the round of 16 in a world-class tournament.

Lee got off to a good start. He led the first set 5-1. But Hrbaty turned around and snatched the set from Lee.

The gloomy picture seemed about to repeat in the 5th set. Lee was leading the set 4-3, when the pain in his thighs led Lee to medical treatment. Soon, Hrbaty drew a 4-4 tie. Lee requested for another “medical break,” and had a chiropractor relieve the pain. Back on the court, he regained the lead. He won two games in a row, running all over the court with his limping legs. The crowd gave him a standing ovation, chanting his name.

Lee said after the match, “I thought about giving up. The pain was so severe. But I didn’t want to hear people say that I just gave up a losing game. I miss my son badly. Right now, I will concentrate on advancing as far as I can.”

Lee’s coach Ju Won-hong praised Lee, saying, “I thought about throwing in the towel. A miracle happened, though. I’ve been with him for more than a decade. I’ve never seen a match like this.”

Venus Williams, who will visit South Korea for the Hansol Korea Open next month, shut out Kira Nagy of Hungary 2-0 with her powerful serves. She hit a 208kim serve in the first round of the women’s singles and set a new world record.