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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Tennis circuit ~ grunters and most inspiring Duck Hee Lee

FIFA is on and already producing surprises. Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez  said that yesterday's 1-5 World Cup loss to the Netherlands was the hardest of his career.  The defending champions were uncharacteristically dominated in their Group B opener, to put themselves in a likely must-win situation for their next two matches in order to reach the elimination stages.  So Spain started with a debacle.. things going awfully wrong. 

Tomorrow Suresh Raina leads India against Bangladesh and some Tennis tournaments are also on, leading to that famous Wimbledon.  In Tennis, grunting refers to the loud noise, made by some players while hitting their shots. It is prominent in men's and women's tennis. Many players and fans find it to be quite obnoxious above a certain sound level. Monica Seles and Jimmy Connors are often credited with starting the "grunt" in tennis in the female and male games respectively. They are not alone – many famous players including Serena and Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer all grunt…. The WTA insist they are doing their best to stop the next generation of players blighting the game with grunting. Last year a young good looking Swiss girl Karin Kennel, the No 11 seed in the juniors, was in news as reports stated that this talented player, was groaning with almost every shot in her win over Lana Rush.   

In almost 2 weeks from now, when the doors open on June 23, more than 38,000 fans are expected to shuffle through the gates. While many will have received tickets through the ballot, others will spend the morning in The Queue, two traditions that have been part of the tournament for many years. The decision to introduce the public ballot was taken in 1924, owing to the huge demand for tickets at the time. The All England Lawn Tennis Ground plc (the “AELTG”), owner of the tennis courts, grounds and buildings at which the annual Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships (“The Championships”) are held, announced the issue of up to 2,500 Centre Court debentures for the five years from 2016 to 2020 inclusive at a price of £50,000 each.  It is reported that the issue has been significantly oversubscribed and, therefore, all 2,500 debentures will be allotted and issued.  The debenture issue has raised approximately £103.5 million (net of VAT and expenses).

This player was in news when he played in the Juniors last year – not sure whether he plays and graduates eventually into the bigger league – but there is lot to learn from him – he is one player who will not complain about the highest decibel grunts too, that his opponents may make on field.  It is Lee, Duck Hee (born in May 1998) in Jechon Cityh, Korea – plays right handed.  Last year the 15 year old made ripples when he played at Wimbledon for the first time in his career in the Junior tournament. Duck-Hee was knocked out in the first round by the no. 7 seed Christian Garin 6-2, 4-6, 2-6  but was seen in every newspaper for he cannot hear being deaf from birth. 

“When I play tennis, my hearing doesn’t give me any difficulty. No problems at all,” he said. “If I was to hear, I want to hear the fans cheering. 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.” Duck-Lee communicates using sign language and lip reading and he has already won over Rafa Nadal, one of the sport’s biggest stars, after he earned his first ATP Tour ranking point as one of the youngest players on the tour.

Lee, has  been deaf from birth and first came to the world’s attention when Rafael Nadal tweeted about him to his 4.6 million Twitter followers after Lee earned his first ATP ranking point in April 2013. This right-hander has won a series of junior titles and he is the Asian junior champion claiming his first senior title in May 2013 where he won five singles matches to collect the Epitok-Abris Cup in Budapest. He won the Under-12 title at the Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championship held in Florida in December 2010, which is considered as one of the world’s leading junior tournaments, and proceeded to qualify in his first Grand Slam event in Australia. Lee also made his debut at Wimbledon in the boy’s events in June 2013.

He has always dreamt of a life at the top of the tennis world ever since he was 9 years old, and his unusual story has caught the heart and attention of world’s top professional tennis players Nadal and Roger Federer. In tennis where players rely on the combination of sights and sounds to be able to strategise their game, especially on trajectories and shots that players have to play, Lee’s disability is considered by many as a great disadvantage. Nevertheless, Lee does not see it as a hindrance on the court and he refuses to make such a big issue of his deafness. Lee’s involvement in tennis has encouraged many to play the game, sending a positive message to the younger generations around the world that his progress in tennis despite his deafness has made his achievements beyond remarkable.

Last year, through lip-reading, then speaking through an interpreter, Lee told the Borneo Post SEEDS at Civic Centre Tennis Court in Petra Jaya, Kuching on Mar 16 that he is amazed by the fact that his hearing impairment had captured the attention of many. According to his coach Hyung Jun Yoon, Lee understands English but cannot  pronounce the words clearly. Lee states that he has overcome his disability and that he always follows his instinct when playing tennis. He can gauge his opponent’s reactions by sight and predict where the ball may go accordingly. As the years pass, he knows that his instinct will improve.

Lee was the first Korean player to appear in a TV documentary on Wimbledon, appearing alongside top names in tennis including Nadal, Federer, and Novak Djokovic, where he had the opportunity to talk about his dedication in tennis despite his physical disability. When asked about his proudest achievements in tennis, he replied “My greatest achievement was when I won the India ITF 1 (Grade 3) Junior Tennis Tournament in Chandigarh on March 2013 as well as being runner-up in the India Futures Games also held the same year.”

Inspiring, dear Lee, we are backing you to win more laurels.
With regards – S. Sampathkumar

14th June 2014.

1 comment:

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