Esther Vergeer: 'It's about more than just tennis now'

Esther Vergeer and Ruben Spaargaren

In February Esther Vergeer embarked on a new phase in her life as a tennis player. She now represents ABN AMRO as a mentor for wheelchair tennis talents Diede de Groot and Ruben Spaargaren.

At 18 years of age Diede is in an important phase. She recently completed secondary school and will be devoting the next three years to a fulltime tennis career. Esther Vergeer understands better than most that this is a complicated business. ‘It’s about much more than just tennis now. Travelling, coaching, extra training sessions, staying in shape, gear: she has to think of everything and make decisions. I like being able to share my experience with her,’ says the seven-time Paralympic gold medallist.

Numbers 26 and 30

Diede competed at her first full international tournaments last year, and she is on a remarkable rise through the rankings. At number 26 in the ITF rankings, she still has plenty of room to grow. Ruben Spaargaren, Esther’s other protégé, is in an entirely different phase. Although he only started playing wheelchair tennis a year ago, he is already ranked number 30 in the world among the junior players. ‘Ruben’s just getting started, really,’ says Esther. ‘He possesses an incredible amount of talent and is capable of improving very quickly. I can teach him how to put together a coaching team, what’s important when planning your season and other things.’

Happy with Esther

The youngsters in turn are very happy with the mentoring that Esther provides. ‘It’s hard to reach the top, but I think that Esther’s a great help,’ says Diede. Ruben agrees. ‘Whenever I have a question, I can ask her. Of course she’s experienced a lot in her career.’

Crowdfunding

ABN AMRO’s Partner of the Future programme is about more than just playing technique alone, Esther argues. ‘For example, we’re organising a crowdfunding day for Diede, where we’ll ask tennis players and companies near her home for support. But we’re also teaching her how to make sure that people who help her stay involved with her career, so that she can count on them beyond the immediate present.’

Proper nutrition

Other elements of Partner of the Future are also valuable to Esther’s players. ‘If someone from Ajax explains to them that proper nutrition is important, this has more impact than it does coming from their parents,’ she says proudly. ‘That’s what makes the programme so special. The kids are all learning from each other.’

Find out why Richard Krajicek and Esther Vergeer are coaching talented young stars.