WOERDEN, The Netherlands - Having put together the most illustrious career her sport has ever seen, and perhaps even one of the most illustrious careers any sport has ever seen, Dutchwoman Esther Vergeer announced her retirement from wheelchair tennis after 18 shining years as a pro.
Vergeer's numbers speak for themselves - she won 169 titles in her career, including all 21 Grand Slams she entered and four gold medals at the Paralympic Games. In the last 10 years she won 470 straight matches and 120 straight tournaments - and in all that time she faced just one match point, against Korie Homan in the gold medal match at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. The last time she even lost a match was against Daniela di Toro in Sydney all the way back in January 2003.
The Dutchwoman first rose to No.1 on April 6, 1999, and held the spot for over 12 years between October 2, 2000 and January 21, 2013. She spent a total of 668 weeks as the No.1 player in the world.
And Vergeer's success wasn't limited to the singles court - she also won 158 doubles titles, including 23 of the 26 Grand Slams she entered, and three gold medals at the Paralympic Games.
Vergeer started to play wheelchair tennis at age 12 after surgery on her spinal cord went wrong.
ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti said: "Esther Vergeer is a tremendous ambassador not only for tennis but also for disability sports. She is an inspiration to many. Wheelchair tennis owes her a huge debt of gratitude for her professionalism and her quality as a player. Everyone at the ITF wishes her well with her foundation and we know that anything she chooses to do in the future will be a success."
"On behalf of the WTA, our players and tournaments, I want to extend our congratulations to Esther for her tremendous accomplishments over the course of her impressive career - more importantly, I need to thank her for the contributions she has made to the sport of tennis," Stacey Allaster, Chairman & CEO of the WTA, said about the Dutchwoman. "Beyond the statistics, she has served as an inspiration for generations of not just tennis players, but women of all ages. Esther, like the WTA's founder Billie Jean King, shares the clear vision about the potential that women not only have in sport, but in society. And she delivered this motivating message every time she stepped on the court.
"We congratulate Esther on her record-breaking achievements and thank her for being such an inspirational, global ambassador of the sport. I wish her all the best of luck in the future."