By Tom Degun

10077-she-may-be-a-veteran-but-balding-still-daunted-by-leading-coverage-of-london-2012-paralympics-Although it is a title of such huge prestige, Dutch wheelchair tennis star Esther Vergeer (pictured) has truly earned the right to be called the most dominant player in professional sports.

The 30 year old from the Netherlands has unbelievably remained unbeaten in her last 452 singles wheelchair tennis matches in an unprecedented winning streak that goes right back to January 2003.

The legendary streak has seen her pick up every major title in the sport, including each of the four Grand Slams (the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open) on numerous occasions in both singles and doubles.

She also boasts five Paralympic gold medals having won the singles competition at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, and also winning the double competition in the Sydney and Athens.

In addition, she is the only person ever to win the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability on two occasions, which is some achievement given that it is the greatest prize in disability sport which has only been won by a handful of legendary Paralympians such as wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc, swimmer Natalie du Toit and sprinter Oscar Pistorius.

Esther Vergeer_playing_April_26
It is, therefore, no surprise that the wheelchair tennis queen approaches the London 2012 wheelchair tennis event at Eton Manor as the undisputed favourite, with many suggesting the women's singles tournament will take place simply to decide on who takes the silver and bronze medal behind Vergeer.

But for Vergeer herself, the pressure of being expected to win whenever she takes to the court is not that easy to deal.

"Sometimes this streak gives me a lot of confidence and sometimes a lot of pressure that everybody expects me to win," she explained.

"Sometimes I get very insecure about the fact that the day that I'm going to lose is going to come and I wonder who is going to beat me.

"But on the other side, there's also the fact that they need the mental ability to become 'the one that is going to beat Esther' – so there are different sides to the streak."

Esther Vergeer2_April_26
The London 2012 Paralympics are set to be the final act in a glittering career for Vergeer, who admits that she currently plans to retire from the sport after the Games. But she is unsurprisingly confident of going out on the perfect high with gold around her neck.

"It's going to be stressful, I am sure," she said.

"But at the same time, I feel very confident and very powerful. I have this new chair that I developed, which I feel very confident in. I trained very hard this winter on specific things. So I am very confident that I am able to win that gold medal. But it is not the same as a normal tournament. You know you are going to be part of the whole national Dutch team and going to the Olympic Village. In Beijing in 2008, I was the flag bearer and when you go into the Stadiums and you see the spectators all in orange, it has a different feel to everything else."

But Vergeer knows that she will have full support from her team, particularly her physical trainer Marijn Zall, who is now her boyfriend. 

"I met him on the tennis court a couple of years ago and we grew together and now we're girlfriend and boyfriend," she smiles.

Esther Vergeer_Australian_Open_April_26
"We have a sharp line between the home situation and the work situation. If my physical trainer is training me, then he's the boss. And then you know, in the home situation it's maybe different and I'm the boss or maybe he's the boss – sometimes!"

The relationship marks a fantastic period in Vergeer's life, which changed completely for her over two decades ago when she was just eight years old. It was back then that she developed paraplegia as a result of otherwise successful, if very risky surgery relating to hemorrhaging blood vessels around her spinal cord. Although it remains a painful subject, Vergeer recalls the time vividly.

"I was eight when it all happened," she explained. "Everything that I did was not normal any more. I could not get dressed the normal way I was used to. I could not play soccer the way I was used to. I could not go out for sleepovers with friends the way I used to. I had to relearn all those things. I think because of sport, I relearned very quickly and I realised what I could and what I could not do, and I wasn't worried about the things that I could not do any more and I was only focused on the things that I could do and I think that has saved my life."

Now such an inspiration, Vergeer knows that she has a responsibility to all her supporters to try and win gold at London 2012. Such a feat would undoubtedly see further accolades showered on the Dutch star and put her in line to win a third Laureus Disability Award in what would be the most historic of achievements.

Esther Vergeer_playing_2_April_26
"I've won the Laureus Award twice, in 2002 and 2008, and I think this is one of the most special awards there is because it's chosen by former top athletes," she said.

"They know what it takes and they know what it is like to be an athlete. I've won it twice. It's a dream to maybe even be nominated again, or maybe to even win for a third time. I can only hope that good results, maybe hopefully in the Paralympic Games, will put me up for another nomination."

The only woman to have won three Laureus Awards is American tennis player Serena Williams, who was named 2010 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year. She previously won the Sportswoman Award in 2003 and the Laureus Comeback Award in 2007.

"If I can compete with Serena that would be awesome because there is no other way I can compete with her," Vergeer joked.

"So that would be funny."

But when it comes to the tennis court, there is never any joking from Vergeer and when she finally puts down her racket for good, it may prove that no one will ever be able to compete with the remarkable sporting legacy she has already put down.

Tom Degun is a reporter for insideworldparasport