February 13, 2013
After a decade of undefeated wheelchair-tennis, Laureus Ambassador Esther Vergeer has announced her retirement.
It was a loss to Daniela de Toro in January 2003 in which she last tasted defeat in a singles match, but since then, Vergeer has gone on to win 120 tournaments, 470 matches, beating 73 different opponents along the way.
Announcing her retirement, Vergeer said: "I am impressed I got this far. I sometimes still can’t believe that in all these years I did not have a breakdown. But for now it's enough.”
Now she is keen on turning her attention to charitable endeavors and using her iconic status for the benefit of others. She said: “I took a time-out since 'London' and found out on the court there are no challenges left, but 'outside' there are plenty. For instance, the will to give children with a disability an opportunity to play sport all over the world, through the Esther Vergeer Foundation, to try to achieve integration and a self-supportive attitude for people with a disability, through sports. I want to work with different organizations to help disabled children to sport. Laureus is one of those organizations.”
Laureus Academy Member and tennis legend Martina Navratilova paid tribute to Esther on hearing the news and said: “Esther’s record speaks for itself. No athlete in any sport can stay at the top of their game for as long as she has without incredible commitment and talent. The fact she ends her career undefeated in a decade says everything about how special a tennis player she is.
"Her opponents may have lost the chance to finally defeat her, but she has given the game a true legend and is a great role model for athletes everywhere, in particular young wheelchair tennis players, to look up to. Esther is not only the greatest wheelchair tennis player in history, but in my opinion one of the greatest athletes in any sport ever. She is a phenomenon."