NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Venus Williams are not the only stars at the US Open in Flushing.
CBS 2’s Mark Morgan found a self-made champion who has beaten the odds.
Esther Vergeer of the Netherlands is the world’s No. 1 ranked female wheelchair tennis player.
Incredibly, Vergeer hasn’t lost a match since January of 2003 — that’s a stretch of 393 straight matches and 101 consecutive tournaments. Much of her drive, Vergeer said, comes from never being satisfied despite her lofty status.
“I want to be better than the day before. I think I can raise the level of tennis every single day,” Vergeer told Morgan.
In 1990 — at the age of 8 — Vergeer underwent surgery for a spinal defect and a brain hemorrhage. The surgery left her paralyzed from the waist down.
Then, having never played competitive sports, she decided to take up tennis.
“I think there were a lot of people who never said it to me, but they probably had no idea what was still possible. And…my parents and me didn’t have any clue either,” Vergeer said.
Three Paralympic Championships and ten World Championship titles later, Vergeer is well aware of how her triumph over her disability affects others.
“It’s wonderful to hear and it’s awesome that I can be an inspiration or an example for little kids or…adults with or without disabilities,” Vergeer said.
USTA National Manager of Wheelchair Tennis Dan James said Vergeer is an inspiration to others — not only as a wheelchair tennis player, but as a person as well.
“She’s really an incredible human being that gives back to everyone,” James said.
“Just the mental strength that somebody like that has is just an inspiration for anybody in anything they do, I think,” spectator Jean Quattrocchi said.
During Vergeer’s warm-up Thursday, it was evident that many of the spectators had never seen a wheelchair tennis athlete, but that didn’t matter.
“The way she hits the ball, the way she covers the court and everything else, it’s just phenomenal,” spectator Paul Finnegan said.
Earlier at the Open, Roger Federer publicly acknowledged Esther’s stunning streak — recognizing her talent and perseverance.
“If like a Roger Federer says something about you, I mean, it gives me goosebumps,” Vergeer said.
With her courage and talent, Esther Vergeer has provided her share of goosebumps as well.