January 21, 2013
Lee Duck-hee was eliminated in the second round of the Australian Open boys tournament.
Damir Sagolj/Reuters

Korean junior tennis player Lee Duck-hee may not be able to hear the ball come off his opponent's racket or the line judge calling a ball out.

But the 14-year-old Lee doesn't believe being deaf is a disadvantage on the tennis court.

"Actually, I don't think about this kind of disability all the time,'' Lee said after losing his second-round boys singles match at the Australian Open on Monday.

He spoke to reporters through two translators - his coach read his lips as he spoke in Korean and then explained his meaning to a translator who could speak English.

"For me, my coach and my parents, we don't want to say anything about my disability to other people like the umpires,'' he said. "I really want to get over it by myself.''

On the court, it's tough to tell Lee is hearing impaired. During doubles matches, he communicates with his partner by reading lips.

Because he can't hear the line calls, he just continues playing points until he receives a visual signal that the ball is out.

Lee's father introduced him to the game when he was 7. The following year, he got a chance to hit with Roger Federer in South Korea and he excitedly pulled out his phone to show off a picture of himself with Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Even though he lost early at Melbourne Park, it wasn't his biggest disappointment of the week. He was more upset that Federer passed him on the grounds and didn't recognize him - six years after they met in Korea.

"I really wanted to take a picture with him. I really regret that,'' he said.

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