By James Crook

EstherVergeerFeburary 12 - Dutch wheelchair tennis star Esther Vergeer has announced her retirement after recently celebrating ten years without experiencing defeat, notching up 470 successive victories since the last time she was beaten in January 2003.

She made the announcement this morning via micro-blogging site Twitter, tweeting: "Very special day: officially stopped tennis".

Vergeer's incredible record saw her win 120 successive tournaments, defeating 73 different opponents and losing just 18 sets along the way.

"I am impressed I got this far" said the 31-year-old from Woerden.

"I sometimes still cannot believe that in all these years I did not have a breakdown.

"I am proud and I am going to celebrate."

Over the course of her career, Vergeer dominated wheelchair tennis, winning 21 Grand Slam titles, three Paralympic gold medals, along with dozens of other titles, and was named International Tennis Federation (ITF) Wheelchair World Champion for the last 13 years in succession.

She has worked closely with the Cruyff Foundation, set up by Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff, and with her own foundation, The Esther Vergeer Foundation, which was established in 2004 to help young people with disabilities get involved in sport.

EstherVergeer1Wheelchair tennis star Esther Vergeer has retired, weeks after celebrating an incredible 10-year unbeaten streak, last losing in January 2003.

ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti paid tribute to Vergeer and her achievements, saying: "Esther Vergeer is a great athlete and an even better ambassador for wheelchair tennis.

"Her skill and personality have helped to lift the profile of the sport around the world."

Cruyff Foundation director, Carole Thate, said: "Esther Vergeer is a role model not only as an athlete, but also in setting up her own Foundation so that she can give back to society.

"In collaboration with the Johan Cruyff Foundation, she has established the project 'From Sport day to Sport club' to help physically disabled children get acquainted with sport through sports days at schools."

It is believed that only one professional athlete in sporting history is known to have had a longer winning streak than Vergeer; Pakistani squash player Jahangir Khan, who won 555 consecutive matches, although he was only undefeated for five-and-a-half years between 1981 and 1986.