Don’t look now – and I mean that – but there’s a sixteen-year old tennis sensation crushing the outer ranks of the ATP futures tour. Duckhee Lee of the Republic of Korea isn’t exactly playing in tournaments that are worth watching for most fans. However the sixteen-year old is the youngest player in the Top 500 at the moment and lately he’s been having his way in futures events in Indonesia.
For those that don’t know, futures events are low-level professional tournaments that offer ranking points and prize money that would not normally interest proven players. For example Indonesia F2, a futures tournament that was played in early April, offered its tournament champion just 18 ranking points and $1440 in prize money. Those kinds of numbers won’t interest anyone in the Top 100 but the events still serve as an effective gauntlet to pass through for those who have ambitions of making it on tour.
Countless players fail at the futures hurdle and end up having to get real jobs.
However Lee, who started the year ranked outside of the Top 500, definitely appears to have a future in tour-level events. The 16-year old claimed the Indonesia F2 title in early April and he went on to claim the Indonesia F3 title a week later. Those results helped catapult him into the Top 400 – meaning he’s still got plenty of work to do before he makes it on tour.
However, while Lee also has plenty of time, one factor that could slow down his progress is his country of origin.
Lee is from Korea, a country that’s hardly a common stopover for the ATP. The difference that it makes is simple: if Lee was American or French or British or Chinese then there would be a lot of tournaments that he would receive a wild card entry into as wild cards are commonly awarded to the host country’s nationals that are ranked too low for automatic entry. With no important tournaments taking place in Korea, wild cards may be harder to come by although perhaps he’ll still receive some during the Asian hard court swings of upcoming seasons.
Lee, who will turn seventeen later in May, is a name that most tennis fans will not know of yet. However that is something that will likely change in the years ahead as the Korean continues to make progress. In fact, if Lee ever makes the Top Ten in the years ahead he will definitely make world wide headlines for one surprising reason.
Besides being the highest ranked 16-year old on tour, Lee promises to become the posterboy of anyone who wants to advocate the spirit of perseverance for one reason: he was born deaf.
Don’t look for Lee in any major tournaments any time soon but perhaps a Grand Slam debut in 2017 is reasonable.