Venus inspired by
Quad tennis' David Wagner
Ashley Marshall | September 18, 2019
Seven-time Grand Slam women’s singles champion Venus Williams says she is constantly inspired and motivated by American wheelchair tennis champion David Wagner.
In a new 12-minute video posted to her YouTube channel on Tuesday, the two-time US Open winner praised Wagner for his dedication, friendship and athleticism.
Williams and Wagner first met nearly a decade ago when Wagner invited Williams to watch one of his matches at the US Open. Since then, the players have kept in touch, supporting and encouraging each other along their journeys.
“It was amazing to watch him play,” Williams said in the video. “And it was amazing to see the athleticism, determination and the skill that he had on the court. I was moved beyond words. It was a really emotional, emotional moment for me. And that really marked the beginning of our friendship.”ADVERTISEMENT
Wagner broke his neck at the age of 21 in 1995, causing a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Wagner played table tennis as part of his rehab, winning national championships in the sport before taking up wheelchair tennis in 1999. Within four years, Wagner was the top-ranked player in the sport's Quad Division and well on his way to becoming one of the best to ever play the game.
In the video, which also included an interview recorded at Wimbledon earlier this summer, Williams highlighted several lessons she’s learned from Wagner over the years, including breaking down barriers and never letting obstacles get in the way of achieving your dreams.
She also discussed the ways he inspires people to be a better version of themselves and the ways in which he has shown her how to be a better friend.
“I have the utmost respect for David," Williams said. “As a tennis player, I know what it takes to put in the work every day. And he does that and he’s become a champion. I am so motivated by what he achieves and how also he motivates so many people.”
The video already has more than 13,000 views, bringing her total views between her first four episodes to more than 1.4 million.
“I think if we can motivate people to be a better version of themselves, I think that’s a great thing,” said Wagner, who was born in Fullerton, Calif., and grew up in Walla Walla, Wash. “Whether you have a disability, whether you’re a tennis player, whether you just want to get off the couch and go for a longer walk. If you motivate people to become a better version of themselves, I think it’s an awesome feeling to know you do that.”
Wagner's resume is long and distinguished, featuring six Grand Slam singles titles, 18 Grand Slam doubles titles, 11 Masters doubles crowns and three Paralympic gold medals in doubles from Athens, Beijing and London. Currently ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles and No. 2 in singles in the Quad category, Wagner also contested the championship match in singles at the Paralympics in both 2004 and 2012.
Added Williams: “I don’t think he realizes that and I don’t think he realizes how much he’s motivated me and inspired me and the impact that he’s had on this world. I’m really, really happy to call him my friend.”
To learn more about adaptive tennis, click here, and to find adaptive and wheelchair tennis programs where you live, click here.