SYDNEY: The son of a South Korean potato farmer who had to play three qualifying matches just to get into the tournament is through to the final of the Sydney International, the major lead-up event to next weeks Australian Open.
Lee Hyung-taik upset the more experienced and higher-ranked Wayne Ferreira 6-3, 6-3 yesterday to make it through to his second ATP final in eight years as a professional.
His opponent in the final is Spains Juan Carlos Ferrero, the world number four and French Open runner-up who had to fight his way back to beat Germanys Rainer Schuettler 3-6 6-3 6-2, but Lee was happy just to be in the final.
Did I expect this? Of course not, Lee told reporters through a translator. I just wanted to win one match.
Lee, who was raised in Hoingsung, a small farming village in Kang Won Do province, only arrived in Sydney from Doha last Friday after a 16-hour flight.
He won his first qualifying match on Saturday then his second that afternoon. His third win, on Sunday, earned him a start in the field.
In the womens draw, second-seed Kim Clijsters thrashed her Belgian team mate Justin Henin-Hardenne 6-2, 6-3 to reach her first Sydney final.
She plays Lindsay Davenport in the final. The American beat Tatiana Panova 6-3 7-5 to reach her eighth Sydney final.
n MELBOURNE: A hometown Australian Open warm-up ended in defeat for Mark Philippoussis yesterday with a 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 loss to Sebastien Grosjean.
The local hope was unfazed by the defeat, however, buoyed by his performances at the Kooyong Classic and eager to get to Melbourne Park on Monday for the first Grand Slam of the season.
The Australian Open is my home ... Melbourne is where I was born, it is where I grew up, he said.
There is always a special sort of vibe about this place for me. I can feel that special something whenever I walk onto the court out there.
Philippoussis, piecing his injury-ravaged career together yet again, plays Dutch surprise package Martin Verkerk in the first round.
Grosjean will face Agassi in todays final. On Thursday Agassi beat French 16-year-old Richard Gasquet in the first semi-final.
In consolation matches later yesterday Moroccos Hicham Arazi beat Thomas Enqvist of Sweden 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 and Spains Alex Corretja beat Moroccan Younes El Aynaoui 6-3, 3-6, 7-6. Reuters