Photo: Kate Whitney LuceyInternational Tennis Federation President Francesco Ricci Bitti, Chantal Vandierendonck, and ITHF Chairman Christopher Clouser
Five-time Paralympic medallist and three-time ITF Wheelchair Tennis World Champion Chantal Vandierendonck was one of five people inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2014 on Saturday in Newport, Rhode Island, USA.
Vandierendonck, the first female wheelchair tennis player and the first Dutch tennis player to be enshrined, is joined in the Class of 2014 by former world No. 1 and six-time Grand Slam tournament champion Lindsay Davenport. Both Vandierendonck and Davenport have been inducted in the Recent Player Category.
Vandierendonck is the third wheelchair tennis player to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Brad Parks, the Californian credited with founding wheelchair tennis in 1976, was inducted as a member of the Class of 2010, while Parks’s fellow American Randy Snow, the first ITF Wheelchair Tennis Men’s World Champion in 1991, was inducted posthumously as a member of the Class of 2012.
Parks introduced Vandierendonck at Saturday’s ceremony on Bill Talbert Stadium Court and paid tribute to her "flawless skills, strategy and determination.”
"I am so deeply honoured that I am inducted right behind my two heroes in wheelchair tennis (Parks and Snow). I will cherish this moment for the rest of my life.” said Vandierendconck, 49, who was one of the early stars of wheelchair tennis. She was the first ITF Wheelchair Tennis Women’s World Champion in 1991 and went on to win become World Champion again in 1996 and 1997. She was the world No. 1 women’s player for a total of 136 weeks in singles and 107 weeks in doubles.
"Wheelchair tennis brought so much to my life. The challenge to work on my tennis game, I just love to practice and see if all you work for will reveal in the matches. But it also helped me so much to deal with my life in a wheelchair. Being around all those active, young, independent, positive minded sports people showed me how great my life in a wheelchair still could be," addd Vandierendonck.
"I've learned so much from all the other players and I'm grateful for that. I hope that with all I have learned I am able to inspire other people. I am deeply honoured to receive this reward for my career."
Vandierendonck was a talented national tennis player before being injured in a car accident in 1983. She heard about wheelchair tennis from an uncle who had seen it being played on television and quickly picked up the sport before becoming the first in a long line of top-ranked Dutch women’s wheelchair tennis players. She has also taken an active role in helping to grow the sport.
Between 1985 and 1993 Vandierendonck won seven women's singles titles at the US Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships, one of the sport’s original Super Series tournaments. She also captured two doubles titles at the event.
Vandierendonck won five Paralympic medals in total. She won the women's singles gold medal at the 1998 Seoul Games, when wheelchair tennis was a demonstration sport, and went on to win two women's doubles gold medals in Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996. She also won the women's singles silver medal in 1992, when wheelchair tennis was awarded full medal status for the first time, and clinched the women's singles bronze medal in 1996.
Additionally, three individuals were inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2014 on Saturday in recognition of their tremendous dedication toward the growth and development of the sport - legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri, Jane Brown Grimes, who has held executive leadership roles with the WTA, USTA, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and British tennis broadcaster and author John Barrett.