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Wheelchair Tennis

Retired Vergeer revered by U.S. Wheelchair Tennis community

February 15, 2013 12:56 PM
The recently retired Esther Vergeer never lost a main draw singles match in 26 major appearances.
Vergeer will now look to find success in a new realm: teaching disabled kids to play tennis, basketball and other sports.
By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com
 
A decade of undefeated play finally stopped Esther Vergeer, when it was clear that no wheelchair tennis contemporary could.
 
"I'm hugely proud of my performances, my titles, and can look back on my career with a great feeling," Vergeer said recently at the ABN AMRO tournament in Rotterdam. "Keeping going would not add anything."
 
The 31-year-old Dutch star retired from the game after 16 years as a professional, and with an astronomical 700-25 win-loss record to her credit. Hers was dominance nearly unparalleled in professional sport: Vergeer spent 668 consecutive weeks as the world’s No. 1-ranked women’s singles player from 2000-13, punctuated by a 470-match winning streak started in 2003 and stretched to present day that included 44 Grand Slam titles in both singles and doubles. In fact, in singles, Vergeer never lost a main draw match in 26 major appearances.
 
In the United States, where she won all 12 US Open Wheelchair Competition championships held thus far (six in singles, six in doubles), Vergeer will be forever revered.
 
"Esther Vergeer has carried the torch of wheelchair tennis as the greatest player in the history of the sport, but also as its finest ambassador," said Dan James, U.S. Paralympic Tennis Coach and USTA National Manager, Wheelchair Tennis. "Her work in developing countries and on behalf of her own foundation epitomizes her greatness.  She will be missed on the tour, but I am certain her contributions are only beginning."
 
"Esther was a great champion and a wonderful ambassador for wheelchair tennis," added American Quad champion David Wagner. "I am fortunate to have been able to play at a time when she was at her best. I am proud of her for her success and know she will do well in the next chapter of her life."
 
Vergeer had been hinting at retirement for nearly two years, focusing on one final gold medal run at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London last September. With a win over countrywoman Aniek Van Koot, Vergeer claimed a seventh gold in her fourth and final Paralympic appearance for the Netherlands. 
 
As it turns out, sitting out the 2013 Australian Open was the unofficial confirmation of Vergeer’s vow to call it quits after London. She’ll now focus efforts on leading her philanthropic institute, the Esther Vergeer Foundation, in effort to provide athletic opportunities for disabled children to play tennis, basketball and other sports.
 
"When you can do something great and you can help other people, you should do it," Vergeer said following her final US Open Wheelchair Competition victory in 2011. "It’s not a message solely for people who are disabled. There are going to be things in life that you didn’t plan or that come unexpectedly. Events that you don’t have any control over. It could be a disability, or someone passing away, or losing a job. It's about how you deal with that. You are the one that’s going to make something out of your life." 
 

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