Korea’s Cho guns for Cup glory
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When South Korea play their Davis Cup tie against India this week, it will only be the second time in more than three years that 26-year old Cho Min Hyeok will have stepped out of his country to play a match. The South Korean, in fact, doesn't even have a valid ITF or ATP ranking because of his prolonged absence from the international circuit.
Why Cho went missing from all tennis records after 2009 was because he joined the Korean army for two years and has been spending his time training on surfaces other than just the hard and clay tennis court ones.
Serving in the military for two years before they turn 30 is mandatory for all Korean men and Cho decided to begin his term when at 24 and ranked 800 his career wasn't really going anywhere. For someone who harboured ambitions of wielding a raquet, Cho soon found himself handling guns and discussing warfare tactics. If his tennis routines were rigorous, his training in the army was even more brutal, climbing mountains with a bag of stones as added weight.
The political situation in Korea, which made travelling or continuing with tennis difficult for Cho. "Because of our situation with North Korea our military requires to be strengthened all the time and it is a law for all males to serve the army. There are travel restrictions for army men and you can't go out of the country so Cho couldn't play any international events," Korean team manager, Hong Seung-Pyo informs.
Despite the restriction, Cho continued to play in national tournaments, going on to win every major trophy in the country. Impressed by his run in 2012, when he won the prestigious multi-sport Old Korea Sports Festival event, the Korean federation wrote to the government to allow Cho to go to Australia, where he made his Davis Cup debut last year.