National tennis player Baek Da-yeon (NH Bank) has become the first South Korean player to win the Heart Award, the Billie Jean King Cup’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) honor.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced the winners of the Heart Awards for each of the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup main draws and regional qualifiers today. Baek Da-yeon was named the winner of the Heart Award for the Asia-Oceania Group 1 qualifier, beating out Mai Hontama (JPN) in online voting on the Billie Jean King Cup website from December 12-19.
Making her Billie Jean King Cup debut for the first time, Baek won two singles matches against China and Uzbekistan to help South Korea 먹튀검증 qualify for the regionals and advance to the playoffs for the first time in 25 years. “I feel so honored and grateful just to be playing for my country for the first time, but to be the first Korean player to win the Heart Award is unbelievable,” Baek said. “I think this award is for the Korean national team who trusted, relied on, and supported each other,” said Baek. “We will do a good job in the playoffs, so please support the national team.”
The Region 1 Group 1 winner is given the opportunity to donate $2,000 ($2.63 million) in ITF funds, which Baek chose to donate to her church, the Korean Christian Baptist Church of Suwon.
Baek Da-yeon. Courtesy of the Korea Tennis Association
On the day the news of her Heart Award win broke, Baek won her first round singles match at the 2023 NH Bank International Women’s Tennis Tour at Nonghyup University in Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do, with an upset victory. In a marathon match that lasted more than three hours, Baek won 2-1 (1-6 6-4 7-5) against Kayla McPhee (AUS) to reach the round of 16.
After falling behind in the first set to the powerful strokes of McPhee, who was once ranked as high as No. 199 in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), Baek turned to her strengths in the second set, playing tenacious defensive tennis to trouble her opponent. McPhee, who was unable to keep up with the long rallies, called a medical timeout in the third set due to breathing difficulties.
The 2023 BilliJinks Cup playoffs continue in November with a home-and-home series. A win here will earn the team a spot in the last 16 of the 2024 BilliJinks Cup, while a loss will drop them to the Region 1 Group Stage. The draw for the playoffs will take place on Nov. 24 at 10 p.m. ET in London, England.