Kwon Soon-woo will be a one-man Team Korea in Tokyo
Korea will be represented in the men's singles tennis event in Tokyo, returning to the Olympics for the first time in 13 years.
Twenty-three-year-old Kwon Soon-woo, currently World No. 71 in the ATP ranking, made the Olympic cut on June 23.
The worlds' top 56 players qualify for the big stage, but Kwon was able to qualify with some players dropping out of the Games and because the entry is limited to four players per country.
Korea first participated in tennis at the 1988 Seoul Summer Games where Kim Bong-soo and Yoo Jin-sun played in the men’s single competition and Lee Jeong-myung and Kim Il-soon competed in the women’s singles.
Kim Bong-soo and Kim Il-soon both reached the third round of the tournament.
Korea's most famous tennis Olympian is undoubtedly Lee Hyung-taik, who participated at four consecutive Summer Games: The 1996 Atlanta Games, 2000 Sydney Games, 2004 Athens Games and 2008 Beijing Games.
Lee first competed in the Olympics alongside Yoon Yong-il at the men’s doubles event in the Atlanta Olympics, and then competed in both the men’s doubles and singles events at the Sydney Olympics. Lee’s best result was reaching the second round at the 2004 Athens Games.
Kwon will look to smash through that record at the Tokyo Games.
Kwon arose as Korea's new tennis hopeful in November 2019 when he became the third Korean tennis player ever to ever reach the top 100.
Lee was the first Korean to be ranked within the top 100 in November 2000, when he was 24-years-old. Lee’s best rank ever was No. 36 in August 2007. Chung Hyeon reached No. 19 in April 2018 and became the highest ranked Korean tennis player ever.
During Kwon’s junior career, he was often stuck in the shadow of Chung. But winning at two ATP Challenger Tours in 2019 allowed him to make a big jump in the world ranking.
This year, Kwon has been playing better than ever. After reaching the semifinals of the 2021 Eastbourne International in Eastbourne, England where he lost to world No. 18 Alex de Minaur on Friday, his rank is now close to his career high No. 69, a record made in March 2020.
He beat the former No. 5 Kevin Anderson 3-1 in the first round of the French Open and reached the third round at the Stade Roland-Garros in Paris, France this June, a first for Kwon.
Only two other Koreans, Chung and Lee, have reached the third round in Paris, and neither made it any further.
Kwon is currently looking to translate that form on to grass at Wimbledon. Kwon will return to Korea after the grand slam event is finished to train in preparation for the big event.
The men’s singles events starts on July 24 with the first round played through the next day, the second round will be played from July 26 to 27 and the third round on July 28. The quarterfinals take place on July 29 and the semifinals follow the next day. The bronze medal match is on July 31 and the gold medal match is on August 1.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [email@example.com]