. By T.V. Antony Raj
Esther Vergeer born on July 18, 1981 in Woerden, Netherlands is the greatest wheelchair tennis player of all time. Since 2003, she has won every singles match she has played – around 444 matches in the last nine years.
In 1999, at the age of 18, Esther became world number one. She is now 30, and she still plays on. Between 2004 and 2006, she never lost a set – winning 250 in a row. During her career, Esther has won 39 Grand Slam titles – 20 singles and 19 doubles, as well as five Paralympics and 22 year-end championship titles.
Esther has been nominated six times including 2012 as Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability. She won this prestigious Award twice – in 2002 and 2008.
Esther Vergeer was paralyzed from the waist down in 1990 at the age of eight after undergoing surgery for a spinal defect and brain haemorrhage. Part of her rehabilitation programme involved playing sports, and she found she had an aptitude for wheelchair tennis and basketball, eventually choosing to concentrate on tennis from the time she was 17. She says that she no longer sees herself as disabled.
“At the beginning, I didn’t realize I’d be paralyzed the rest of my life. I was little and in pain and in hospital and all those things together made me think that when I got home and I didn’t have pain any more, I would be able to walk again,” she told Marianne Bevis of The Sport Review.
“But when I got back home, had to go back to school, play with my friends, it dawned on me it would be the rest of my life.
“In the beginning it’s hard, of course, everything I did I compared with before: It was easier when I could walk, it was more fun when I could walk, so it was difficult.
“I guess sports, and the people around me, made me realize that the world doesn’t end. Now I can do all the things that other 30-year-olds do so I don’t see myself as a disabled.
“I love this game more than anybody. It’s a lot of sacrifice, it’s a lot of effort, but I do enjoy that.
“My main motivation is the inner game: I just love the sport, I love the training, but then also the way I see that I can improve in so many aspects still.
“Then there’s the motivation of the Olympics: You have to set certain goals, and this year for sure I’ve set my goal – my mind – on the Olympics.”
Away from the court, Esther with her own charitable foundation continues to work tirelessly to encourage a new generation of athletes by organizing wheelchair sports clinics. She also continues to work closely with the Johan Cruyff Foundation and the Dutch National Paralympic Committee and is also a member of the Laureus Friends & Ambassadors programme.
I have posted below some images of Esther Vergeer – the world’s greatest Wheelchair Tennis player.
Esther Vergeer attends the Laureus Sports Awards at the Palau Sant Jordi on April 2, 2007 in Barcelona, Spain.
Esther Vergeer after winning Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability award in 2008.
Esther Vergeer poses with the championship trophy after winning her women’s wheelchair final match against Korie Homan of the Netherlands during day thirteen of the 2009 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 31, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia.
Esther Vergeer and Rafael Nadal of Spain pose for a photo during day two of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament at the Ahoy Centre Rotterdam on February 10, 2009 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Esther Vergeer poses with her award at the ITF World Champions Gala on day ten of the French Open on June 1, 2010 in Paris, France.
Esther Vergeer with her trophy celebrates after she defeated Daniela Di Toro of Australia in her women’s wheelchair singles final during day fourteen of the 2010 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2010 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
Esther Vergeer poses with the Women’s Wheelchair Roll of Honour Award during the ITF World Champions Dinner at Pavillion D’Armenonville on May 31, 2011 in Paris, France.
Esther Vergeer celebrates with the championship trophy after defeating Aniek Van Koot of the Netherlands in the Wheelchair Women’s Singles Final during Day Fourteen of the 2011 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 11, 2011 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
Esther Vergeer (L) poses with the winners trophy after defeating Aniek Van Koot (R) of the Netherlands in their Women’s Wheelchair singles final match during day thirteen of the 2012 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 28, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.
Esther Vergeer poses in the Winners Studio during the 2012 Laureus World Sports Awards at Central Hall Westminster on February 6, 2012 in London, England.