By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com
American Wheelchair Tennis veterans and rookies alike enjoyed a memorable campaign in 2013, highlighted by Grand Slam wins and top rankings.
The tandem of David Wagner and Nick Taylor once again met lofty expectations in 2013. Fresh off their Paralympic gold medal in 2012, the No. 1 quad doubles team in the world claimed both an Australian Open title in January and a record fifth US Open Wheelchair Tennis Competition crown in their return to New York in September.
Their dominance at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center cannot be understated. Since 2007, Wagner and Taylor have yet to lose a match when paired together.
The two were also key players in the Team USA quads’ first-place finish at the 2013 BNP Paribas World Team Cup
in May, each notching five singles victories en route to capturing the eighth quad title for the U.S. in 16 years of WTC play. The event, held in Antalya, Turkey, is the Wheelchair Tennis equivalent to both the Davis and Fed Cup competitions, with more than 50 nations represented in competition.
Taylor would clinch a perfect singles run in Antalya during the tournament final against rival Israel, seizing a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Shraga Weinberg.
For his part, Wagner, who turns 40 in March 2014, maintained his hold on the International Tennis Federation’s No. 1 quad singles ranking for the entire year, claiming 12 ITF singles titles, including his second career Australian Open victory.
In wheelchair play, the standout for the year hailed from the junior ranks. In three short years as an active Wheelchair Tennis player, Chris Herman has developed a game that has him quickly rising in the ranks of the best juniors in the world. And as the 15-year-old reaches adulthood, he could very well become America’s best wheelchair player.
Herman, the No. 15 boys’ junior in the world, led the Team USA junior squad to a surprise second-place finish in 2012 at the World Team Cup, and 2013 saw an improvement in Herman’s individual performance in WTC play. Overall, he won five matches at the 2013 WTC, including a three-set triumph over Spain’s Felix Garcia Perez, currently No. 8 in the ITF world junior wheelchair rankings.
"Chris Herman has transitioned from a junior with talent to a leader, accomplished player, and the future of American Wheelchair Tennis," said Dan James, USTA National Manager and Head Coach of Wheelchair Tennis. "With unlimited potential we are all excited to see what Chris does in the near future."
Lastly, the worldwide Wheelchair Tennis family bid farewell to Esther Vergeer, who officially announced her retirement
from professional tennis in February.
The 32-year-old Dutch champion spent 668 consecutive weeks as the world’s No. 1-ranked women’s singles player from 2000 to 2013, during which she won 44 combined Grand Slam titles in singles and doubles. Vergeer also claimed seven Paralympic gold medals in that time.