Esther Vergeer and Rick Draney inducted into International Tennis Hall of Fame

First time in history that two wheelchair tennis players have been elected In the same year 24 Jul 2023
Esther Vergeer Rick Draney holding up their medals and smiling
Esther Vergeer and Rick Draney have become the sixth and seventh wheelchair tennis players to be inducted into the Hall of Fame
ⒸBen Solomon/ITHF

Eight-time Paralympic medallist Esther Vergeer of the Netherlands and quad wheelchair tennis pioneer Rick Draney of the United States have been inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Vergeer and Draney are being celebrated for their on-court excellence and their pioneering contributions to the sport.

In front of a packed crowd of family, friends, fans and fellow Hall of Famers, Vergeer and Draney became the sixth and seventh wheelchair tennis players to be enshrined, joining Brad Parks, Randy Snow, Chantal Vandierendonck, David Hall, and Monique Kalkman-van den Bosch.

Their induction marks the first time in the Hall of Fame’s history that two wheelchair candidates were elected in the same year.

Vergeer and Draney were presented with their honours at a glittering ceremony Ⓒ Ben Solomon/ITHF

Pioneers in the sport

Vergeer is one of the most decorated Dutch athletes of all-time; a 21-time Grand Slam champion, 13-time International Tennis Federation (ITF) world champion, and four-time Paralympic gold medallist in singles.

She made her Paralympic debut at Sydney 2000 and retired in February 2013, after capturing two gold medals at London 2012.

Vergeer is a four-time Paralympic wheelchair tennis singles champion Ⓒ Getty Images

Vergeer was unbeatable for a decade, sitting atop the world rankings for 668 consecutive weeks. Her doubles career was also filled with dominance, winning 23 Grand Slams and four Paralympic medals.

“Tennis gave me confidence. Tennis was making me laugh. Tennis was making me take back control over my life, believing in myself, trusting that everything would be all right. I have never felt more comfortable than I have on a tennis court,” said Vergeer.

“I accept this honour, and I am mindful of the responsibility it carries: a responsibility to inspire the next generation of tennis players, wheelchair tennis players included, to foster a love for the sport and create pathways for individuals who dare to dream.”       

Draney is revered as a pioneer of the quad division of wheelchair tennis. Over the course of his career, Draney earned 12 singles and six doubles titles at the Super Series level, before the advent of wheelchair tennis’s inclusion at Grand Slam tournaments. Draney spent a combined 591 weeks within the singles and doubles top 10.

Draney is one of the most celebrated figures in quad wheelchair tennis Ⓒ ITF

Introduced by his former USA World Team Cup coach and current USTA Director of Wheelchair Tennis, Jason Harnett, Draney said:

“I am proud of the many opportunities I had to share what I had learned and developed with other quadriplegics so they could participate in play. I am proud of being an advocate and campaigner for possibilities and opportunities for growth of the quad division in the United States and around the world.”

The pair were presented with their International Tennis Hall of Fame medals by Kim Clijsters, four-time Grand Slam champion and Honorary President of the ITHF, as well as receiving their Hall of Fame blazers ahead of the official enshrinement reception.