Soonwoo Kwon enjoyed a dream week at the Astana Open as he defeated three seeds en route to capturing his maiden ATP Tour title.
The 23-year-old is the second South Korean man to win a tour-level trophy in the Open Era, after Hyung-Taik Lee triumphed in Sydney in 2003. The World No. 82 overcame Australian James Duckworth in the championship match.
ATPTour.com caught up with Kwon after he lifted his first title in Nur-Sultan.
Watch Nur-Sultan Final Highlights
What does it mean to you to win your first ATP Tour title?
To win the title as a Korean, it has been 18 years and it means a lot to me and I am really proud of myself. I feel great and really happy for myself and my team and all the people supporting me from Korea.
You had to win two matches in three sets and defeat three seeded players to get this trophy. At what point in the week did you start to believe that you could win this title?
I just took one match at a time. I never thought I was going to win the tournament. But after match after match, I was only thinking about the next match. Today I just came out and it was a perfect day for me.
Prior to your run here, you had never reached the final at an ATP Tour event. What do you think was the key behind your breakthrough this week in Nur-Sultan?
The key point was being relaxed and not getting panicked. I tried to get my game face on and stayed focused and that was it. Just trying to stay in the match. Especially in the quarter-finals, it was a tough match for me with a lot of ups and downs, but I just tried to stay calm and didn’t panic.
You are the second South Korean man in the Open Era to win an ATP Tour title. To what extent do you think this can help grow the sport in South Korea and inspire others to follow in your footsteps?
Winning this tournament is going to help a lot of players in South Korea and is going to help a lot of guys who are trying to go out there. The younger guys will look up to me and they are going to believe they can do it as well.
Could you take a moment to acknowledge some of the key figures in your life and career who have helped you to reach this milestone?
My parents have been really supporting me from the start to now. They have been really supporting me from Korea. My sponsor Fila, they have been really helping me with a lot of stuff, and our agency Leeco. They have been really friendly and helping me when I had a tough time. My team, my coach and my trainer. They have been working so hard since we started and the Korean city team, in Korea, which is Daejeon city, have been helping me with a lot of practices. Also, the people that are helping us in America. All those guys have been helping me with my career and my journey.
How did you start playing tennis and what are some of your early memories playing the sport?
My father, he introduced me to tennis. I was a pretty wild boy when I was young. I was running around and looking to expend energy. I have some good memories playing tennis and at the same time I was playing soccer.
How would you describe yourself as a player, and how would you describe yourself off the court? Does your on-court attitude extend off the tennis court as well?
I am a pretty wild guy off the court. I really enjoy singing, really friendly. I like to have fun, I am a really easy guy. On the court a lot of people say I am really serious, just a different personality, I think it changes. Off the court I smile a lot. Nothing really worries me. On the court I also get really focused and get really serious about taking care of business.
What do you consider to be your biggest passions outside of tennis and can you tell us a little bit about those interests?
I like singing. I don’t consider myself a good singer but I like to enjoy it. Maybe in the shower and stuff like that. I like to watch movies, little hobbies. Netflix and Korean dramas.
This is a milestone moment in your career. How will you celebrate this victory?
I will enjoy this today and celebrate with my team and the people here at the hotel. I will enjoy it today as much as possible, then tomorrow I am heading out to San Diego to play another tournament there and we will restart. But today is my happiest day so I will enjoy it.