Duckhee Lee’s victory was the loudest statement of his career so far

By Nicole Ganglani | Photo from ATP Tour

Twenty one-year-old Duckhee Lee secured a 7-6 (4), 6-1 victory over Swiss Henri Laaksonen in the first round of the Winston-Salem Open. Lee won the final three points of the first-set tie-break and broke twice in the second set to come out victorious. The South Korean, who currently ranks No. 212 in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Rankings, is now the first deaf player to notch a main draw victory at an ATP match.

Overcoming Challenges

Lee was only six years old when he learned that he was deaf. With the help of his mother Mi-Ja-Park, Lee learned to read lips as a way to communicate and register information, using it as a tactic during his matches. He’s had his fair share of challenges (particularly with understanding the officials or hearing the score), but Lee was able to get through them by devising certain tactics, one of which depends heavily on eyesight and movement. According to Lee, tennis is the best opportunity for him to survive in a normal society.

Besides Lee, there have also been other deaf athletes that have made a name for themselves in different sports. Some notable names include Ashley Fiolek, a retired motocross racer who won the Women’s Motocross (WMX) Championship four times, and Derrick Coleman who played fullback for the Seattle Seahawks when the team won its first Super Bowl title in 2014. These para-athletes have shown the world that no disability can stop them from thriving in the sports world.

Lee’s recent victory in particular is a much-needed reminder that the para-athlete community can excel in competitive sports and even outperform able-bodied athletes, and that they have what it takes to set world records and inspire the world. 

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest sports news and active lifestyle and fitness features you need