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13 Questions: Esther Vergeer

by Ouch Team

2nd July 2009

Twenty-seven year old Dutch athlete, Esther Vergeer, could be considered Holland’s answer to Tanni-Gray Thompson in terms of sporting fame. Undeniably the cream of the crop when it comes to women’s wheelchair tennis, Esther has been world number 1 for a decade and unbeaten since 2003. Famous in the Netherlands, Esther is a strong spokesperson for disability sport and writes a regular column for one of the country’s major newspapers.

Esther Vergeer will play on a grass surface for the very first time when she competes against Britain’s Lucy Shuker in the inaugural women’s wheelchair doubles at Wimbledon this weekend. We caught up with Esther before she made the trip and served her up Ouch’s 13 Questions.
Esther Vergeer

People think I'm ...

Very very confident. They say I have an air of confidence about me. When the public see me on the court I am, but new people or situations make me nervous.

I want to ban ...

Judgmental people. They have an opinion about something or someone even before they meet them, and stick to it whatever happens.

Not a lot of people know that I ...

Love cookies. You might not think that I'm a bad food person but I can eat packets of them, to the point where most people would be sick.

The best piece of advice I would pass on is ...

At least try. A lot of people say they want something and they have this dream, but they are scared and don't even try to achieve it.

I struggle with ...

Saying no. I don't like to disappoint people. If someone wants something from me I usually say yes, even if it costs me a lot of time and money.
Esther Vergeer in action on the tennis court

I excel at ...

Motivating people. I have a foundation which organises sports clinics for kids with disabilities. I'm good at fooling around and making them laugh. I often get them to do something that they couldn't have done before. With grown-ups, I have a way of talking around a subject so that it grabs their interest.

My ideal dinner guest is ...

Barack Obama. I think he is a very charismatic guy, but I would really like to know the reason why, for God's sake, he would want to become President of America. I would also like to have dinner with Jake Gyllenhaal because he is cute.

If I didn't live in the Netherlands, I'd live in ...

Australia, for the weather and the space. The Netherlands is pretty packed. For people with disabilities it is really good because Australians are open minded and they don't judge you.

Where do you spend most of your time?

In the car. The infrastructure here isn't that good, so I travel three hours per day at least. If there is a traffic jam, which there always is, you have to just sit there waiting. I carry half my house in my car and always have something with me if I have to stay over night.

When I come home in the evenings, I ...

Get on the couch, put on my easy clothes and watch TV. I love cooking programmes, even though I can't cook at all.
Esther Vergeer on the tennis court

My first job was ...

As an intern at the National Olympic Committee in the Netherlands. While I was there I did research about how happy and content the athletes, sports associations and coaches were. I found out that there is never enough money. Coaches need to have another job to make ends meet, so the athletes don’t get as much training time as they should.

Being number 1 is …

Weird. Just because you have this position, people listen to what you say and get nervous if you are around them. I'm just a regular normal person who has to pee etc, but I have created circumstances where I can play full-time tennis. I got myself enough sponsorship to pay for the equipment, coaches and assistance I need to do my best. Many wheelchair tennis players are not that lucky.

Playing tennis makes me feel ...

Free. In everyday life you always run into bumps, whether using a wheelchair on the street, or meeting with whatever makes you really feel disabled. When I am on the court, active and doing my thing, I don't even think about being in a wheelchair.
After Wimbledon,Esther Vergeer's next tournaments will be the 20th British Open (20-25 July) and the 25th Invacare World Team Cup (27 July - 2 August), both taking place at the City of Nottingham Tennis Centre. For more information visit The Tennis Foundation website.

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