Wheelchair Tennis Legends Vergeer, Draney Inducted into Hall of Fame

July 23, 2023

JULY 22, NEWPORT, R.I, U.S.A., – Esther Vergeer and Rick Draney, two wheelchair tennis legends, tonight received The Ultimate Honor in Tennis, formally being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Vergeer and Draney were celebrated for their on-court excellence and their pioneering contributions to the all-reaching 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 athletes 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.

One of the most decorated Dutch athletes of all-time, Vergeer is a 21-time Grand Slam champion, 13-time International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Champion, and four-time Paralympic gold medalist in singles. For 10 years, she was unbeatable and sat 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 honor, 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,” she also shared.

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 Grand Slam play. Draney spent a combined 591 weeks within the doubles and singles Top 10.

“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,” Draney said.

Judy Tegart Dalton, a member of the Original 9 pioneers of women’s tennis and members of the Class of 2021, was also recognized during the ceremony. Dalton was unable to travel to Newport in 2021, but was aptly championed during this year’s program. In her career, Dalton collected nine major doubles titles, completing the coveted career Grand Slam in doubles.

“I’d just like to say how honored I am to join this elite group. I feel that what we did as the Original 9 was something unique. To be honored all together, I would have loved to have been here, but this is nearly as good. In fact, it’s better really,” Dalton said.

In a press conference earlier today, Vergeer also reflected on the occasion, saying her induction is, “The biggest honor you can have as an athlete.”

Prior to the ceremony, Vergeer and Draney received their signature Hall of Fame Brooks Brothers blazers, and were celebrated after the ceremony at the official Enshrinement Reception presented by Infosys.