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2010 Year In Review: Wheelchair Tennis

Brad Parks enters the International Tennis Hall of Fame and is named ITF Ambassador for Wheelchair Tennis
Parks is the pioneering founder of wheelchair tennis, not only in the United Sates but also throughout the world. During an amateur freestyle skiing competition, he suffered a disabling injury when he was 18. As recreational therapy, he began experimenting with tennis, and in 1976, wheelchair tennis was born. Parks and several other disabled athletes began playing and promoting wheelchair tennis in numerous exhibitions and clinics in the U.S. The sport quickly grew as a result of this high exposure level and, in 1977, the first wheelchair tennis tournaments were held. This success motivated Parks to found the National Foundation of Wheelchair Tennis (NFWT) as the organizing body for the sport. Parks started the first international wheelchair tennis event, the US Open, held in Irvine, Calif. He was the Tournament Chairman for 18 years, setting the standard for others to follow. Today the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour is comprised of 157 tournaments in 41 countries, exceeding a total of $1,500,000 in prize money. In 1985, as a result of increased international presence at the US Open, the World Team Cup was started with five nations, not including women or quad players. Today this prestigious Fed Cup/Davis Cup-style team event has been contested by 52 different nations in its 25-year history and boasts men, women, quads and junior competitions.

Brad was one of six people chosen as an ITF Wheelchair Tennis Ambassador as a result of his enthusiasm of spreading the word about the sport internationally by holding clinics throughout Europe, Asia and the Pacific. Today almost 100 countries offer wheelchair tennis programs, and the sport is played at all four Grand Slams. 

Esther Vergeer wins 400th consecutive match, takes all Grand Slam titles (including US Open), is featured on Opening Night at the US Open and on the cover of ESPN The Magazine.
Some things never change and Esther Vergeer proved that in 2010 as she extended her incredible winning streak by winning her 400th consecutive singles match in November during the NEC Masters in Amsterdam.

Vergeer, 29, of the Netherlands, is also undefeated at the NEC Masters since her debut in 1998 and came within two points of defeat last year when facing Korie Homan.

In 1990, after undergoing surgery for a spinal defect and brain hemorrhage, Vergeer became paralyzed from the waist down. Making the most of her situation, Vergeer has since become one of the most successful wheelchair tennis players in history, first reaching world No. 1 in 1999. She has not lost one singles wheelchair tennis match since January 2003 and currently her 400-match winning streak is the most successful run in tennis ever.

The five-time Paralympic champion (three singles and two doubles) and five-time US Open champion has also won 102 consecutive wheelchair tennis tournaments and ten consecutive World Team Cup Championships titles from 2000 to 2009.

Off the court, Vergeer spends time with her foundation, The Esther Vergeer Foundation, to promote and organize wheelchair sports (tennis, basketball, athletics, and winter sports) for children with disabilities.

The US Quad team regains the title at the World Team Cup in Turkey.
The two-time Paralympic doubles gold-medal team of David Wagner and Nick Taylor regained the Quad title along with Bryan Barten that had eluded them since 2007.  The victory was also the sixth title for the team at the World Team Cup.

David Wagner wins his first major in singles at the 2010 US Open.
David Wagner has been waiting a long time to hoist his first Grand Slam trophy and it paid off in 2010 as he did just that on home soil. Wagner won his first Grand Slam quad singles title of his career after completing a three set victory in two days over defending champion and world No. 1 Peter Norfolk at the US Open in New York.

USTA-ITF Jr. Camp doubles in size with 25 campers from 5 countries.
The 2010 USTA-ITF International Junior Wheelchair Tennis Camp in Mission Viejo, Calif., held July 11-16 saw 25 youth ages 12-18 that have a permanent disabling condition and require the use a wheelchair when playing tennis the opportunity to come together for a week of learning, fun and camaraderie. The camp included players from twelve different states and five different countries (Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico, Canada and the United States).

It is not often children get to meet living history, but at the 2010 USTA-ITF Junior Wheelchair Tennis Camp that is exactly what happened.  Brad Parks, the "Godfather of Wheelchair Tennis", stopped by the banquet to speak to the children.  He spoke of the beginning of wheelchair tennis and his awe at what it has become around the world.  He spoke of teaching at camps just like this one and how much it meant to him.  It was young Reo Kobayashi, an eleven year old with cerebral palsy, who said it best.  He raised his hand and said in front of the entire group, "I would just like to thank you for starting wheelchair tennis and giving kids like us a chance to have a camp like this." Perfect!

The juniors from El Salvador came to camp with assistance from the National Wheelchair Sports Fund who runs the Florida Open. It was the first time these campers had left home for such a special trip.  It was a tribute to Randy Snow who was in El Salvador on a Silver Fund trip when he passed away.  Randy, who ran so many camps just like this one in his career, was honored in the perfect place.  The last day of camp the kids gathered and honored Randy once again with the most important part of any wheelchair tennis camp.  One coach yelled, "Wheelchair Tennis!" and in chorus the entire group returned with, "We Love It!  We Love It! We Love It!"  Randy would have been proud.



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