Tennis - Wheelchair great Vergeer retires after a decade unbeaten

One of the most dominant records in sport came to an unblemished conclusion when Dutch wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer hung up her racket after an unbeaten decade.

Reuters
Tennis - Wheelchair great Vergeer retires after a decade unbeaten
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Esther Vergeer

The 31-year-old, who claimed four Paralympic singles gold medals and three in doubles, won 470 consecutive matches and 120 successive tournaments, dropping only 18 sets during that time.

Her career record stands at 700 wins and 25 defeats.

She won every grand slam singles event she ever entered, racking up 21 singles and 23 doubles titles - and went two years without losing a set from 2004 to 2006.

"Esther Vergeer is a tremendous ambassador not only for tennis but also for disability sports," ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti said.

"She is an inspiration to many. Wheelchair tennis owes her a huge debt of gratitude for her professionalism and her quality as a player."

Vergeer, who took up wheelchair tennis because of complications after spinal surgery at the age of 12, rose to world number one in 1999 - aged just 18 - and remained there ever since.

"I love this game more than anybody. It's a lot of sacrifice, it's a lot of effort, but I do enjoy that," she told The Sport Review last year when asked how she kept her motivation for so long.

"My main motivation is the inner game: I just love the sport, I love the training, but then also the way I see that I can improve in so many aspects still."

Vergeer became a paraplegic when an operation to repair haemorrhaging blood vessels around her spinal cord went wrong. She says that she longer sees herself as disabled.

"At the beginning, I didn't realise I'd be paralysed the rest of my life. I was little and in pain and in hospital and all those things together made me think that when I got home and I didn't have pain any more, I would be able to walk again," she said.

"But when I got back home, had to go back to school, play with my friends, it dawned on me it would be the rest of my life.

"In the beginning it's hard, of course, everything I did I compared with before: It was easier when I could walk, it was more fun when I could walk, so it was difficult.

"I guess sports, and the people around me, made me realise that the world doesn't end. Now I can do all the things that other 30-year-olds do so I don't see myself as a disabled."

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