Monday, September 13, 2010

The World’s Most Dominant Athlete?

Being an avid sports fan my “morning coffee,” if you will, is checking,, online newspaper articles about my favorite sports teams (Badgers, Packers, Avalanche), and my fantasy sports teams right away after I fire up my computer in the morning. Most days it’s just a ho-hum going through the paces proposition, but every now and again a headline will really grab my attention. This morning on I saw a link to “the world’s most dominant athlete” and enthusiastically clicked on the link to appease my curiosity.

To my great surprise it linked to a cool article about a wheelchair tennis player: Twenty-nine year old Esther Vergeer, a paraplegic from the Netherlands, who has been dominating her sport like no athlete in any sport has for decades. To wit, she hasn’t lost a tennis match in over seven years, running up a record of 396 straight matches and counting, has won ten consecutive world titles, and in that timeframe she apparently was in danger of losing just once. Clearly she is the number one ranked player in her sport and has a career 96% match win rate. She just won the U.S. Open for a fifth time and now has sixteen major titles. That is the same amount of majors as Roger Federer, who over the past few years has been touted as the greatest male tennis player in history. Needless to say, she is quite a phenomenal athlete.

How a person can play tennis from a wheelchair fascinates me. When I was using my manual wheelchair full time for the first year and change after my diving accident I had my hands full just pushing myself around on most days, let alone doing any quick “athletic” maneuvers. To play tennis from a wheelchair requires you to serve the ball, put the tennis racket on your lap and/or hold onto it while you push yourself around the court, get yourself in position to return volley, pick the racket up again and hit the ball, then roll to a new position on the court executing sharp back and forth cuts, pick up the racket and hit the ball again, and repeat it all in an instant for the entire duration of the match. The rules of wheelchair tennis allow for two bounces of the ball between hits instead of just one, but still. As a quadriplegic, who was a terrible able-bodied tennis player to boot, I can’t fathom such talent considering I could probably only muster about an eight foot dribbler of a tennis volley. Wheelchair tennis takes a lot of strength and endurance, and the way Esther has dominated the sport for so long is the epitome of pure athleticism. Awesome for her. I’m an instant fan.

So check out how Esther Vergeer’s Dominance Transcends Her Wheelchair on Fanhouse, and the reigning The Queen of Wheelchair Tennis… Esther Vergeer on the AMS Vans Blog (the latter provides some more background info on how she became a paraplegic, a quick tidbit about the history of wheelchair tennis and its equipment, and includes a video of Esther in action). Both are enlightening reads.

1 comment:

  1. Those are really great athletes! Thanks for sharing your stories. Keep it up!

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