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Legends of the game # 5– Esther Vergeer


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In October 1999 an 18-year-old Dutchwoman lost in straight sets to Australia's Daniela Di Toro in the final of the US Open. She is now 31, and has lost only one singles match since - also against Di Toro, at the Sydney International on 30 January 2003. Our legend of the game is Esther Vergeer and she has currently won 465 successive matches since that last defeat. 

Out of 23 grand slam singles competitions, Vergeer has missed two and won the other 21, breezing through six of the last eight finals without dropping a game. Combining singles and doubles, she has won 42 Grand Slams; 22 year-end championships and 5 Paralympics gold medals and one silver. She has also been part of the Dutch team that has won 14 World Team Cups. Esther Vergeer has been the world number one wheelchair tennis player since 1999 and is often mentioned as the most dominant player in all professional sports. 

Esther Vergeer was born 18 July 1981 and developed paraplegia when she was 8 years old due to an otherwise successful, very risky surgery concerning hemorrhaging blood vessels around her spinal cord. During rehabilitation she learned to play volleyball, basketball, and tennis in a wheelchair. After playing basketball for several years at club level, she was invited to join the national wheelchair basketball team. She played with the Dutch team that won the European championship in 1997. She switched to full-time tennis in 1998. 

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She has been nominated five times for the Laureus Award for Sportsperson with a Disability of the Year, winning it twice in 2002 and 2008. In October 2010 she posed nude for ESPN “The Magazine's” annual Body Issue, marking the first time the magazine has featured a disabled athlete in the Body Issue 

Vergeer has won 160 singles and 133 doubles titles at international tournaments. Her overall record is 679 wins and 25 losses in singles, and 435 wins and 33 losses in doubles.

In a recent artice in The Independent:

Despite all her success and the opportunities that tennis has brought her, has she ever thought: "Why me?" Vergeer said: "Yes, a lot of times, especially after I first became paralysed, but sometimes even now. Sometimes I just have a feeling that I would like things to be different, that I would like to be able to walk, to stand up.

"Of course I have those moments, but at the same time I'm the kind of girl who thinks that whatever life brings you, you have to make the best out of yourself."

She enters the 2012 London Paralympic Tennis Tournament as the hot favourite to win her fourth successive singles gold medal.

A = Absent  NH = Not held

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