South Korea’s Lee Duck-hee has become the first deaf player to win a match in the main draw of a tournament on the ATP Tour.
The 21-year-old, who is ranked 212th in the world, beat Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen 7-6 6-1 at the Winston-Salem Open in North Carolina.
“People made fun of me for my disability. They told me I shouldn’t be playing,” said Lee.
“I wanted to show everyone that I could do this.”
He added: “My message for people who are hearing impaired is to not be discouraged. If you try hard, you can do anything.”
Lee does not communicate with sign language but instead uses lip-reading.
During his post-match interview his fiancee Soopin assisted him, clarifying answers for reporters in English.
Britain’s Andy Murray is among players to have come out in support of Lee, adding it must be “difficult” to play without being able to “pick up the speed of the ball” by hearing the sound.
“It’s obviously a huge disadvantage, so to be able to do what he’s doing is a huge effort,” said the 32-year-old, who lost in the first round in North Carolina as he continues his return to singles action after injury.
“We [tennis players] use our ears a lot to pick things up.”
Lee, who faces third seed Hubert Hurkacz in the next round, played his first ATP Challenger Tour event aged 14.
He played mainly in Asia before switching to hard courts in the US, reaching his first final in three years at Little Rock in June.