Esther Vergeer is, as Boris Becker said, “a phenomenon”. She is unbeaten in singles since 2003; she has won three Paralympic gold medals in singles and her winning streak stretches to 457 matches. Her rivals have tried everything to beat her and failed. Can it be done? Well, we asked one person who ought to know. Esther herself.
Train with the men. “Maikel Scheffers (2011 ITF world champion) is one of my buddies and a guy I train with all the time. They’re faster, they’re stronger, they’re quicker, and it raises my level a lot. I think that’s what makes a difference. For the other girls it should be an easy way to go – to train with men – I don’t know if they do it or not, but they should.”
Get mentally stronger. “I see the other girls on the training court or I’ll talk to them about how they train and they are so close, so close to beating me. But there is still this small thing, I think it’s about mentality on the court – in tennis that is very important – and the mental side is making the difference still. They have the tennis skills, but being calm, making the right plans and making the right decisions. Physically they can do it, but sometimes they are not mentally stable enough to make it work.”
Get yourself a crack team of experts. “The team around me gives me a lot of confidence. Working with a coach who comes from able-bodied tennis, he has a lot of experience and teaches me amazing stuff, not only on the court but also for off the court – like how your attitude should be and how you should approach matches, training, other people, the media. I think I learned so much from that that my confidence is so big, on and off the court, that it gives me a lot of calm.”
Work harder on every aspect of the game. “I do a lot of mobility training in my chair; I do a lot of fitness training for my upper body so I think I am maybe a little stronger than the average girl, I hit a little harder than the average girl and so I think all those things together maybe make me faster and stronger on the court.”