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adidas International

January 11, 2003

Hyung-Taik Lee


THE MODERATOR: As we did yesterday, Coach June will answer questions for Hyung -Taik.

Q. Congratulations. Were you nervous in the beginning, because you improve as the match went on?

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through Translation) He wasn't nervous. But beginning of the first game, he serve really well so that sort of put him in an awkward position. So he said it's a matter of time before he settled in. He wasn't nervous, no.

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: I thought the same, but I guess not (smiling).

Q. Are you happy with the way that you fought your way back into the game?

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through Translation) Throughout this week, he really didn't think about winning the match. He was just trying to play his game, and he tried the same today. He just trying to settle in, and he wasn't really nervous or worried about winning. He was just worried about his game coming back to him.

Q. How did he feel when he had seven set points in the second set, and then he won in the eighth set point? I suppose he has to admit there he was nervous.

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through Translation) He wasn't really counting, but he knew it was many. I think he was up 5-3, 40-love.

Q. Yes.

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through Translation) He feels he let him get back to the game, and just a couple points he let him get back to the game. That was the only time, but he wasn't really nervous or anything. He couldn't concentrate throughout that three points.

Q. He could have closed the set in 36 minutes. Instead, it took him one hour and four minutes to win.

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through Translation) He didn't know (smiling).

Q. Was he nervous at all, or did he think at all about the last match between the two, when he had the matchpoints at all?

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through Translation) Yes. He said it was a good lesson for him because that reminded him about last meeting with Juan Carlos. He knew he had to be aggressive this time. He had to be aggressive - not Juan Carlos.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit more about his tennis background and perhaps tennis in Korea. I guess a lot of people here wouldn't know much about the game over there. Just the background, players over there, the coaching facilities.

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: I think that's something that I can answer, I'm sure . It's something I can answer. Tennis, I think I mentioned a little bit yesterday, tennis is not a very popular sport - until this morning, actually (smiling). No, because the President just called. The President has been very busy with North Korea, he called and we were shocked. Tennis player, President, this doesn't really happen that much. He called when we were in the locker room. He also sent a fax and we cannot find it right now. Anyway, soccer is the No. 1 sport - obviously, you know. Baseball and basketball is a very popular sport. Tennis, a lot of people play, but it's not a very popular sport. The facilities, I think we talked about yesterday, the facility is not very good. It's not like you guys have it here. All dirt clay, not clay like Europe or US, one of those green or red clay. We have a problem with the facilities, coaches, program, the Association. Looking at it objectively, it's very -- it's almost miracle that we have player like him. I mean, it's kind of funny, a coach is saying this, but it is. We don't have a program where you expect players to come up in a certain number of years later. He just, because of our company, he has so many opportunities to go out and play and be able to train with good players and work with good coaches.

Q. So he's a freak, in other words? He's a raw talent that's come up?

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: "Freak," I'm not sure "freak." I'm not sure. That sounds so negative, I don't know (laughing). In many ways, because as you probably know, we Asians don't have very good physical attributes. Like Paradorn is very different. Paradorn has very good -- he's -- it's like I'm very big in Korean standard. I'm not very big for your standard. He has very quick feet, very good muscle tone. Mentally, he's very tough. A lot of Korean players are mentally tough. I'm sure you saw in soccer at the World Cup. But physical part of the game is just very -- something that Koreans are very inferior, I don't know if that's the right word. So I'm not sure if he's a freak, but... We say in Korea it's like a plant in a dry dessert type of thing. Probably "freak" is better term, I don't know (laughing).

Q. The President that called, did he watch the game live?

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: Yes, yes. Well, yeah, well our President, the Korean President called, and our company president called. The president told me it's almost like World Cup now right, at this moment. So, I mean, it's very big.

Q. What is he expecting the reaction to be like when he gets home?

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: It's gonna be -- the thing is we not going back for next four weeks, so it probably is gonna cool down by the time we get back but...

Q. Last week Paradorn won Chennai. He (Lee) won this week. Does he feel that there's something special happening where he can be an example for the tennis in Asia?

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through translation) Now that you mention it, he thinks that way. It's some kind of -- Paradorn always talks about Asian tennis, he's been talking about Asian tennis, not only for him but stronger Asian tennis. The only two players playing in the tour, full-time tour, is Paradorn and Lee only. So he's wishing more people get -- play in the tour. I think somebody asked questions about the difficult part of being in the tour because of loneliness. You see all those people from Spain, there's so many, or Russia, you know. He's only one from Korea.

Q. Belonging to a poor family, how did he develop his tennis career? Was he financially helped from the government, private people?

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through translation) Until 18, he didn't have any sponsor at all - none. So he only play national, Korean national tournaments. He think he play like two, three ITF events, maybe , juniors. So he wasn't exposed to world tennis at all. But when he went to college in Seoul, his head coach in college gave him a lot of opportunities. He helped him improve his game and become a Davis Cup player. Then, I think like we mentioned yesterday, Samsung, our company, picked him up and started sponsoring him.

Q. Has Paradorn been an inspiration to him in the last few months?

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through Translation) Paradorn had a lot of impact on him. Last six months, Paradorn's been playing so good, that has made him work harder. Also, we have another girl who was in the finals in Auckland last week. She's on our Samsung team. That also helped him.

Q. Do you think because of the fact that he's doing so well, that he won here, it will help to develop the game in your country and to motivate kids to play tennis?

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through translation) That's what he wishes for, but Lee by himself cannot do that. He needs other people get involved, to make the program stronger in Korea as a whole.

Q. Coming back to today's match, it looked from outside that in the beginning he was slow, and then after the match went on, he was as fast as in the previous matches and totally fit. But in the beginning, he look not fast at all.

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through Translation) He said you have very keen eyes because he didn't know about that.

Q. He didn't realize?

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: He didn't realize that.

Q. Because some of the mistakes were because he was not fast enough.

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: I know, I agree with you. I looked at it from outside as well, but he doesn't feel that way for some reason, I don't know (smiling).

Q. Can you ask him how he felt about his victory and what this means to him. Is this the most important thing that's ever happened to him? Where does he go from here? What does it mean after all these years?

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through Translation) This week, winning in Sydney gives him a lot of pride. Now he knows what he needs to work on. He learned a lot of things from many good players this week, so he knows what his weaknesses are and some of the weaknesses that he was exposed to that he needs to work on. He wants to improve his ranking and play bigger tournaments so he can set a higher goal.

Q. When did you really think you were going to win the match?

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through Translation) Until the last point he didn't know.

Q. Why is it that he doesn't speak English? Because on court, his words were very well pronounced. After the end of the match, when he said something in English, it sounded like he can speak English.

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: Yeah. But that was, for your information, that was memorized somewhat.

Q. When did he memorize that? Did you practice the speech last night?

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: No, no, no. That's something that he had for a long time but we didn't get to use that much (laughter). But now he get to use it. You know, for those of us who speak English, your native language or something that I learned, it's a big fear almost, to be able to speak English, let alone speak in front of many, many people.

Q. How long has he had the speech memorized for?

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: How many years, you mean?

Q. Yeah, yeah.

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: When he went to Bronx, the year 2000. When he got to the Round of 16 at US Open he memorized it. In the beginning, it was so bad he called me from New York when I was in Seoul and he asked me what to say, so...

Q. What made him more nervous, matchpoint or taking the call from the President?

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: No, we talked to the President, he didn't. He was taking shower (laughing). I'm sure he was very understanding. He sent a fax, but we can't get a hold of the fax. It's somewhere, I don't know.

Q. Why did he actually get involved? Given the lack of background Korea has in tennis, why did he get involved in tennis in the first place?

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: Well, I think we answer that yesterday about the elementary school teacher inspiring him to play because of his physical aspect and how much he like sports, yeah.

Q. After seven matches, is it a problem that he might be very tired for the start of the Australian Open?

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: Was it seven all together? Three quallies.

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through Translation) He's very surprised after so many matches.

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: He and I talked about it yesterday, too, after so many matches he's not tired. Last year he played against Moya. He barely could walk. We ate outside because the trainer told us to stay outside because the cool air conditioning would make his muscles tight. But this year he's totally surprised. No problems so far (knocking on wood).

Q. You were speaking on the phone afterwards. Did you speak to your family back home?

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through Translation) Not yet. But everybody watched.

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: I mean, like I said a little earlier, it was almost like World Cup people tell me.

Q. As a coach, what are your feelings because of his victory?

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: I'm very proud of him. It's something that we worked on. It wasn't really -- sure, we've been concentrating on his mental aspects because it's very cultural thing. Westerners are very aggressive, and in oriental culture, you can't look straight in the eye to your coaches or elders. With that kind of attitude, when you get into tight situation like today, you fall, you know? It's something that we've been working on for last year and a half or so, to step up.

Q. The mental aspect?

COACH HEE JUNE CHOI: Yeah, the mental aspect. I'm not talking about forehand, backhand, anywhere, we're talking about mental aspects only. People has been saying, "You play like Top 30, Top 40, how come you not up there?" I knew it was here (indicating his head). Okay, I'm very happy he won. But more than anything else, I'm happy because he overcame this part (indicating his head). He was down matchpoint, he had seven set point, he came back and won. So the whole story, as you know, in that way, I'm more happy than anything else.

Q. Obviously, his ranking will improve.


Q. Have you had a chance to redefine goals now, third round of the Grand Slams, Top 20?

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through Translation) No, he doesn't really worry about ranking. I'm sure when he plays good, tennis ranking will go up. He doesn't really have a set goal as to what ranking he should be or what he wants to be.

Q. Do you feel that you can make an impact in the Australian Open during the next fortnight?

HYUNG-TAIK LEE: (Through Translation) He only have a few days - actually, one day, to prepare for Monday because the bottomm part is Monday now I heard. He's physically fine, so he's -- just like this week, one match at a time, he says.

End of FastScripts….

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