20-time Major winner Roger Federer is considered to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time, if not the greatest. Having won 103 ATP singles titles (the second-most ever behind Jimmy Connors) and a joint-record 20 Grand Slams, Federer is widely believed to be the winningest player in the modern era of the sport. But is he really?
Not many would know that Dutch player Esther Vergeer has won more titles - and even Majors - than Roger Federer. But the Dutchwoman's field of work - wheelchair tennis - doesn't get nearly as much media attention as singles tennis.
Esther Vergeer had a record-breaking reign at the top of wheelchair tennis that lasted an incredible 18 years, during which she won 48 Grand Slam titles, 23 year-end championships and 7 Paralympics titles. All these achievements recently prompted the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to post a video in tribute of Vergeer, with Roger Federer making an appearance too.
Esther Vergeer opened the door for many other players to win many more things: Roger Federer
A clip from the past is featured for a few seconds at the beginning of the tribute, where Roger Federer can be seen lauding Esther Vergeer's influence on the sport. Federer points out how Vergeer has been a trailblazer for her sport, inspiring many others to follow in her footsteps.
"She's obviously made wheelchair tennis really popular through her success and her domination, and that opens the door for many other players to win more things," Federer said.
The tribute vignette then continues, narrating how Vergeer suffered a brain hemorrhage, a stroke and a vascular myelopathy at a young age which left her paralyzed. Not one to be bogged down by her misfortunes, the Dutchwoman took to tennis and made it her own.
Having established herself as the greatest wheelchair tennis player over her fabled career, the 39-year-old Vergeer now looks after her "Stichting Esther Vergeer Foundation" in Arnhem, Netherlands.
"Knowing that other people take pride and inspiration from my story is the biggest compliment I can ever get," Vergeer is quoted at the end of the video.
Over the course of her career, Esther Vergeer won 169 singles titles and 159 doubles titles. She retired in 2013 with an active streak of 470 matches, having been undefeated since 2003.
It was this staggering record, among other things, that led to Esther Vergeer being nicknamed The Netherlands' Roger Federer.
Federer has praised Vergeer for her accomplishments on many other occasions. In December 2010 the Dutchwoman was featured on CNN for her record of 470 straight wins, and she received a congratulatory message from Federer then too.Published 22 Dec 2020, 23:54 IST