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"You worked hard."
"… You too."
Na Shin Wook firmly shook Han Woo Jin's hand. Anger, regret, sadness and disappointment, his handshake was full of complicated emotions. Na Shin Wook bowed his head while shaking his hand and left depressed.
'I can't evaluate his tennis skills, but he has the mentality of a pro.'
Han Woo Jin was thinking about his match just now and heard an unfamiliar voice.
[Great match! This is the first time you have won against a pro, so all of your stats go up by one.]
[Great match! You played by correctly using the opponent's weakness. Your opponent's weakness (weak skill) was smash. Therefore, your smash level went up by one.]
[You gained experience for the number of skills you used.]
[Volley level went up by one.]
[Lob level went up by one.]
'Of course, beating a pro is also a big achievement. But what's a weak skill?'
Han Woo Jin grabbed his racket and saw his status window.
[Han Woo Jin]
Strength 49 / Stamina 46 / Agility 41
HP 1680/1840 SP 390/390
Drop shot: 1/20
Special Skill: Sparrow (serve)
He got better.
That's what Han Woo Jin thought when he saw his status. Compared to the first time he checked his own status, he knew that his skill set was above the average pro because his skills and experience from when he was 33 years old were brought over to his 23-year-old body.
Yet in Han Woo Jin's opinion, a world class player like Choi Yeon Hyuk was on a completely different level.
However, he had the determination to catch up to him.
'I will win and win again. It doesn't matter if I lose. I will spend my free time practicing and I will take part in many tests to gain more experience.'
That's what Han Woo Jin thought he needed to do in order to close the gap.
"I knew you would win. Take a break."
"Hm? Uh, yeah…"
Ready for the top eight placings, Choi Yeon Hyuk tapped his shoulder while passing by. He sounded like he was confident that Han Woo Jin would win. Han Woo Jin didn't know why he kept on being nice to him even though Han Woo Jin knew about Choi Yeon Hyuk's future.
He couldn't figure out why. Han Woo Jin just thought that he shouldn't be thinking about such useless thoughts and should focus on his match instead. He went back to the waiting area.
At that time, Choi Yeon Hyuk was on the grass court and he shot a serve.
'There's nothing to see there.'
Han Woo Jin just kept walking as he heard the referee announcing points for Choi Yeon Hyuk.
A while later, the top sixteen were almost finished.
The players who were covered with sweat took off their shirts and went to the restroom to wash their face and necks. The sun was setting but the players' bodies were more warmed up than they were during the middle of the day.
'It's March now but I don't feel cold.'
Han Woo Jin felt the same. He easily won his match and got into the top 16 so he felt like he was on cloud nine. He was repeatedly squeezing the racket with his hand. He was ready to keep on playing, so his body was very hot. In other words, he was in his best condition.
His next opponent in the top 16 was very sweaty.
"Mr. Han Woo Jin?"
He grabbed the racket and was able to see his opponent's stats and skills right away.
[Lee Hyun Woo]
Strength 45 / Stamina 40 / Agility 51
HP 830/1600 SP 380/380
Drop shot: 5/20
Special Skill: None
A backhand focused style. Truthfully, in tennis, the majority of players focused on one specialty instead of being all-rounders. For example, a player who wasn't good at backhands could be really good at forehand strokes, and there were some cases of those types of people who placed in the world rankings.
Lee Hyun Wook was the kind of player that specialized in backhand. Backhand players always swang their strokes with the back of their hand facing their opponent and their forehands were usually weak in comparison to their backhands.
Normally, a person's backhand stroke is weaker than their forehand stroke. But if you swing with a backhand, you can add more spin to your stroke which can make the landing of your swing unpredictable.
'An annoying opponent.'
Han Woo Jin's current opponent was an unorthodox player whom he was uncomfortable playing against. He usually used backhand so his smash level was low, but his other skills were decent.
At least he was a little tired from his previous matches so he could play more aggressively. Han Woo Jin said, "Let's start after exactly 15 minutes."
Coach Jeon timed 15 minutes on his watch for rest. For an athlete, 15 minutes was a short amount of time to recover their energy. But since this was what the coach had said, the players couldn't complain.
"…Hooo… I'll go get some water."
Lee Hyun Woo hurried as he realized that he couldn't get a longer rest period. Getting as much rest as possible in this short time period was important. It would be best if he could sit down even one second faster to get more rest to be in better condition.
Yet that was impossible. Lee Hyun Woo had used more than half of his strength. He didn't know if his previous opponents were too strong or if he just used too much energy in his previous matches.
In any case, it was good for Han Woo Jin. Since his opponent was already tired, he could easily tire them out more. Those who complained about this not being fair for him to attack his weakness had no right to speak. Only the strong could talk. Those who spoke about unfairness had no confidence in winning so they would never win regardless. The strong will win even if their weakness is targeted.
'I will win no matter what.'
Han Woo Jin thought that those players who couldn't win were garbage. That's what he learned throughout his life. If you can't win regardless of how much effort you put in, it'll be useless because no one will recognize you.
'That's why I will win.'
Han Woo Jin's kept on repeating one word in his mind.
This time his opponent asked what court he wanted to use. Lee Hyun Woo wanted to use the clay court. Clay courts made the ball bounce less higher and it allowed the ball to travel slower for the receiver to return.
That's why it was a favorable court for Lee Hyun Woo whose specialty was his backhand, a return stroke.
On the other hand, Han Woo Jin asked for an asphalt court so they decided with a coin toss.
Lee Hyun Woo went with heads and Han Woo Jin got tails.
The coin was flipped.
The coin landed on top of the court and not the palm. The coin spun and landed on heads. It was the clay court that Lee Hyun Woo wanted.
'Whooo, things don't go as planned.'
Today a lot of things had gone in his favor, so he was a little bit expectant for things to go in his favor again. However, he now realized that he shouldn't trust his luck and clicked tongue as he went over to the clay court.
"Who will you choose to be the server?"
"Ah, because I got the court you can serve first."
Lee Hyun Woo might have gotten a bit confident because he got the clay court that he wanted. So he gave Han Woo Jin the first serve. Han Woo Jin didn't like his opponent's loose attitude, but Han Woo Jin wasn't that upright to refuse the advantage that he was giving him.
"Yes, start whenever you want."
Han Woo Jin bounced the ball several times. The clay court was sturdier than he thought. He concluded that serve speed shouldn't decrease that much.
The ball left his hand and went up into the air. As the ball came down, Han Woo Jin's body suddenly jumped and twisted.
'I have enough SP so it's not a problem if I use a little bit here.'
The racket hit the ball which sent it flying at an inhumane speed to the other side of the court. The ball looked like it was about to be a body shot, but it suddenly dropped at a 90-degree angle in front of Lee Hyun Woo.
The green missile that lightly hit the clay court and flew up straight into the air. The ball passed through Lee Hyun Woo's arm and side and bounced twice on the ground without any reaction from him.
A perfect service ace. Han Woo Jin's first point.
Lee Hyun Woo's eyes were downcast and serious as he was determined to hit the next serve. Han Woo Jin was excited. His opponent who gave him the advantage of serving first was now taking him seriously. Whether they were pros or amateurs, they were expected to give it their 100% which was common tennis etiquette.
However, he didn't want to use Sparrow, a serve with incredible speed and a strange spin. Nobody could return Sparrow if he didn't plan to move beforehand.
That meant that he could play mind games with the opponent.
His opponent's body is prepared to react to Sparrow, but if he doesn't use the Sparrow, his opponent would be late to react for the serve.
Compared to before, Han Woo Jin threw the ball up a little lower this time.
He used a forehand slice. Using it was a gamble, but he already knew how his opponent would move so it wasn't a big deal.
His surprised opponent blankly stared at the bouncing ball. Lee Hyun Woo's skill wasn't that bad, but he was still lacking compared to Han Woo Jin's ten years of experience.
'He's shaken up.'
In Han Woo Jin's eyes, Lee Hyun Woo looked incredibly confused. If he wanted to be ready for Sparrow, he couldn't get the slice serve; but he if he wanted to get the slice serve, he couldn't get Sparrow.
If that was the case, it was best to only go for one or the other the entire game. Or he needed to hide his body language to Han Woo Jin so that he wouldn't be able to determine which serve to use.
He repeated the slice serve and the ball hit the service line, bouncing out of the court. Lee Hyun Woo's face was filled with anger. If a regular person saw his furious face, they would have felt bad. On the contrary, Han Woo Jin was happy.
Han Woo Jin knew the pain and anger of losing many games or losing points. He was happy that he was now on the other end. Those who were indifferent about losing will forever stay at their current level and won't improve.
The first game was quickly finished due to Sparrow. He used 15 SP during the game for the monster-like serve and he was able to easily beat Lee Hyun Woo who had no idea on how to counter it.
[Overwhelming game! You won a game with only service aces!]
Han Woo Jin ignored the voice in his head and put his racket on his shoulder.
"Alright, let's switch courts and serve."
When the combined score of the players is at an odd number during a match, the players switch sides at odd score counts: 1-0, 1-2, 3-0, 3-2 and etc.
Han Woo Jin saw Lee Hyun Woo tightly bite his lips in frustration. His jaws were clenched tightly. He looked as if he was going to bite the ball he was holding as his eyes were burning with passion. Han Woo Jin was also fired up after he saw his expression.
'Hooo, this won't be easy.'
Lee Hyun Woo threw up the ball. His opponent was a lot more dangerous than the first game. This was now the second game of the first set for the top eight.