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Rick Draney elected to International Tennis Hall of Fame

Victoria Chiesa | February 18, 2023

U.S. quad tennis pioneer Rick Draney and legendary Dutch champion Esther Vergeer will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. this July.


The two players make up a historic 2023 class in Newport: Wheelchair tennis players come up for induction in the International Tennis Hall of Fame every four years, and for the third time, two will be entered into the Hall of Fame simultaneously. Draney and Vergeer will join Brad Parks, Randy Snow, Chantal Vandierendonck, David Hall and Monique Kalkman-van den Bosch in Newport's all-time annals.


Draney and Vergeer were officially announced as the 2023 class on Saturday at the Rotterdam Ahoy in Rotterdam, in an on-court ceremony at the ABN AMRO Open. They were welcomed by Kalkman-van den Bosch, several current wheelchair tennis stars, and a packed house of Dutch tennis fans. Vergeer, a winner of 44 Grand Slam titles across singles and doubles in her career, currently serves as tournament director of the ABN AMRO Open’s men’s and women’s wheelchair events, which run simultaneously to the ATP 500 event each year.


Read more at Draney, Vergeer elected to International Tennis Hall of Fame


"It's been a long time since I've been that nervous and that excited going out on a tennis court like it was just a few minutes ago to experience this," Draney said via Zoom from Rotterdam afterwards. "The feeling is overwhelming. It's exciting. It's thrilling to see the little promo video and talk about the significance, importance and history that is involved with the International Tennis Hall of Fame.


"I'm still trying to come to terms with the fact that I am going to be a part of that, but I am thrilled for the opportunity."

Draney played a key role in the development of the quad division in wheelchair tennis and also was an accomplished player. He was a three-time International Tennis Federeration (ITF) year-end No. 1 in quad singles and also reached No. 1 in doubles, spending more than 100 weeks in the top spot in both disciplines. His playing career began in 1984, and he captured 12 singles and six doubles titles at the Super Series level—the highest level of wheelchair competition before Grand Slam play began in 2002. As an administrator, Draney served for nine years as the tournament committee chairperson of the US Open USTA Wheelchair Tennis Championships. He was later given the USTA’s Brad Parks Award, which recognizes outstanding career contributions to wheelchair tennis, in 2012. He also won the ITF's Brad Parks Award in 2017.

“I am overwhelmed by the honor of being inducted, and I don’t know that I will ever be able to fully comprehend the significance," Draney said. "I am very thankful and grateful for the love, support and guidance of so many that influenced me and contributed to the countless opportunities and experiences I had. It has been so enjoyable to reminisce and reflect upon all the memories of the people, the places, the challenges, and the successes that impacted my career on and off the court."


Draney also told that his overall experience in Rotterdam was emblematic of the change seen in wheelchair tennis in the four decades since he was a professional player. 


"I was talking with Esther and Monique a little while ago about how this is certainly different than it was back in the early days," Draney said. "It's amazing to see the change, the progress, the integration, the opportunities that are taking place. I think many people talked about it, thought about it, probably even dreamed about it, but to see it come to be is just incredible. To see where things are compared to where they were, and to think or feel that somehow, I might have had a small role in helping some of that process, some of that effort, and some of that advocacy over the years, is meaningful to me.


"I hope it's made a difference for others because the opportunities and experiences that I've had through tennis have been a life-changing, life-influencing experience for me, and I'm incredibly grateful for that."


To earn election into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, candidates need to be chosen on 75% of ballots of a voting contingent that includes media, historians, and previous Hall of Famers. Nominees can remain in contention for three years. Other players nominated this year, but not selected, were Cara Black, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Ana Ivanovic, Carlos Moya, Daniel Nestor, Flavia Pennetta and Lisa Raymond.


Draney and Vergeer will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in an enshrinement ceremony scheduled for Saturday, July 22 in Newport.

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