Esther Vergeer Retires. Her Legend Deserved Better. We Need More Like Her

1360753957ESTHERVERGEER_COVER3DkleinThe first time I saw Esther Vergeer, I was shocked, thrilled, embarrassed. In that order. You probably don’t know her, but Vergeer happens to be the most dominant athlete in the world. Maybe of all time. She retired Tuesday.

She’s a wheelchair tennis player who didn’t lose one time last year. Or the year before that. Or the year before that. Or the year before that.

Or nearly six years before that. Vergeer said she was proud of her accomplishments, but that “keeping going would not add anything.’’

Well maybe not for her. But Vergeer added plenty to the sports world, giving a face to para-athletic sports more so than anyone other than Oscar Pistorius. Vergeer added understanding and compassion to the world. She also was just a damned good tennis player.

If you missed a chance to see her play, or even to have your kids see her, well that’s too bad. We take people like her for granted, and then one day they’re gone.

Please read the rest of the column at

About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

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