"I just do love winning gold. I really do. That's the best colour."
September 6, 2012 11:17 PM   Subscribe

In January 2003, Esther Vergeer, a 21-year old Dutch wheelchair tennis player lost her singles match to Daniela Di Toro in the quarter-finals of the Sydney International. What no one knew at the time was that this was the end of an era. Now 31, Vergeer hasn't lost a singles match since. The world's most dominant athlete in an individual sport, she's going for her 470th consecutive victory today, in the gold medal match at the Paralympics.

Vergeer was left with paraplegia after a risky spinal surgery when she was eight. The #1 ranked player since 1999, her singles career has included three Paralympics singles gold medals, 21 Grand Slams (winning six of the last eight 6-0 6-0) and 138 other tournaments. She has been twice awarded the Laureus Award for (worldwide) Disabled Sportsperson of the Year, and was the flag bearer for the Dutch at the opening ceremonies in Beijing.

Turns out she's a fair doubles player as well, winning 2 gold medals and one disappointing silver, as well as 21 Grand Slams with various partners over the same time period. Of course, she is also playing in the doubles final on Saturday. Combined, she has a lifetime record of 1112 wins and 60 losses.

Wheelchair tennis is essentially the same game as leg tennis, except that the ball is allowed to bounce twice and you can store spare balls in your spokes. Also, the prize money for a Grand Slam event is a little lower; Wimbledon awards £8K for the wheelchair doubles (per team), and 65 times more -- £260K for the able-bodied doubles. Roger Federer's payday was £1,150K. Of course a few years ago, Vergeer's prizes were closer to $1000.

If you're interested, you can watch her path to the finals:
Quarterfinals vs. Khanthansit (THA)
Semifinals vs Griffioen (NED) - Griffioen was Vergeer's partner for the silver in Beijing, and plays against her in the doubles final.

Vergeer's official site (Dutch; autoplaying CNN interview video.)
posted by Homeboy Trouble (10 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
cool sport, never seen that before. no grunting!
posted by facetious at 11:39 PM on September 6, 2012

The world's most dominant athlete in an individual sport

Which probably makes her the least known but most successful sporty type in the world.

I don't give a jot for the Olympics, para or otherwise (until I saw what I think was Blind Soccer last night, but this sort of story interests me, so thanks for sharing it.
posted by Mezentian at 12:31 AM on September 7, 2012

Those arms!
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:32 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Awesome athlete.
posted by MT at 4:39 AM on September 7, 2012

And she won!!!
posted by Pendragon at 6:03 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

1112 wins and 60 losses

That's one of most astoundingly awesome sports stats I've ever heard.
posted by JanetLand at 6:35 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

And she won!!!

Oh, well, now that makes it 1113 wins and 60 losses. ONE LOUDER IN AWESOMENESS.
posted by JanetLand at 6:37 AM on September 7, 2012

...Isn't that the beginning of an era?
posted by maryr at 7:02 AM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

End of an era when other people could entertain the thought of being the best.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:36 AM on September 7, 2012

Damnit.How can I flag my own comment (which I felt bad about) if it's been deleted?
posted by Mezentian at 8:53 AM on September 7, 2012

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