The World's Best Tennis Player

Netherlands' Esther Vergeer returns the ball to Netherlands' Sharon Walraven during their wheelchair women's final match in the French Open tennis championship at the Roland Garros stadium, on June 4, 2010 in Paris. AFP PHOTO JACQUES DEMARTHON (Photo credit should read JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Images)
JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Images
Whatever excellence in tennis meant before, this woman has redefined it. She is celebrated by legends of the game whose accomplishments she has outstripped. She is simply the best tennis player on the planet over the past 10 years, reports CBS News correspondent Tony Guida.

"She's one of the greatest athletes out there and I'm very happy for her," said tennis champion Roger Federer.

She is Esther Vergeer and her game is wheelchair tennis. By now, it should be called Vergeer tennis; that's how completely she owns this sport. She has won every singles match she's played since 2003 - nearly 400 in a row.

"She doesn't bother with losing, so I could take a few pointers," said Venus Willliams. "She's amazing."

No one, man or woman owns as many championships as Vergeer. She has won 101 consecutive titles: four U.S. Opens, six Australian Opens, four French Opens, three Paralympic titles - and those are just her singles victories. She has plenty more in doubles.

"She's a fantastic athlete and brought a new level of understanding and exposure to the sport," said former tennis champion Martina Navratilova.

None of this might have happened except for a medical mistake.

"I never played tennis before my accident," said Vergeer. "I hardly played any sports."

At the age of eight, Vergeer had surgery to correct defective blood vessels near her spinal cord. The operation went bad. She was paralyzed.

"That made me said sometimes," said Vergeer. "I started asking questions like, 'Why me?'"

Four years into her rehabilitation, Vergeer tried wheelchair tennis. She was 12. She's been close to invincible ever since.

"I think it's so awesome that Venus Williams and Roger Ferderer think I'm a good athlete," said Vergeer. "They don't talk about the wheelchair or about my disability; all they see is what I've done in my sport."

What she's done besides win is teach. At her foundation back home in Holland, Vergeer guides disabled youngsters into sports, believing it builds stronger bodies and stronger minds. The 29-year-old Esther Vergeer is testament of that.