I grew up around tennis. My parents worked in a tennis centre, and both them and my sister played. I just had a natural love for the game from a very young age.
Then my mum saw a documentary about wheelchair tennis. I visited the then national coach, Aad Zwaan and I instantly fell in love with the game. I’ve always loved chasing that little yellow ball.
But tennis is so much more than just hitting a ball. You need to be in good physical and mental condition. That balance between the mental and the physical is one of the things I love about the sport.
One thing can’t work without the other. You need to be on top of your game in both aspects. I think a lot of people underestimate that, but it’s really important to develop the mental side of your game.
I still sometimes have challenges with my mentality on court. I get angry sometimes. But I have a great sports psychologist who helps me stay focused on my mental toughness. So I keep learning every time I go back on the court.
And each new match, is different. Different opponents, different styles, different challenges.
I instantly fell in love with the game. I’ve always loved chasing that little yellow ball.
I’ve had some amazing highlights in my career so far. I’m truly honoured to play tennis at this level. My standout moment has to be winning silver and gold in the singles and doubles at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. That and winning the 2013 Australian Open and the US Open in singles and doubles.
My ultimate goal is to win gold in the singles event at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
If you keep working hard enough, you will succeed. In tennis and in life.
My day always starts with coffee. Then I drive to my training session with my coach Michel Lentjes. After that I’ll have a short break and I finish the day with physical training.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I train at the National Training Centre in Almere, here in the Netherlands. Those days are quite exhausting, because you really need to work hard there. But they’re great fun too.
My tip for anyone coming into the game is always be yourself. There’s only one of you, so make yourself unique. That goes for how you play the game and how you are in life.
In that regard, my hero is Rafael Nadal, I love his lefty forehand. It’s even more amazing when you consider he’s naturally right handed. That’s unique. I love his drive too. He celebrates every point. And I love that attitude. Because every point really does matter.
It’s slightly reminiscent of my favourite quote, from Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” That’s my approach. If you keep working hard enough, you will succeed. In tennis and in life.
That comes through in my favourite games. That satisfaction of preparing well for a match so your game plan really works and you reach all your goals for that match.
All the travelling in our sport can be tough. I try to stay in touch with my parents by phone. And I always take a little bit of home with me. I love gekleurde hagelslag (coloured sprinkles). So that always comes with me on the tour to remind me of home.
Plus, we get to go to some amazing places. My favourite is the Australian Open. The people are really lovely and the event is extremely well organised.
I’m still working on my mental approach to tough moments in my career. I’ll be cranky for an hour or so. But then I usually go back to the training court. To try and get the good feeling back. You just have to get back out there.
Sometimes you need to disconnect too. For that, I love watching Ice Skating (speed skating). And I love watching my fellow Dutchmen do well in swimming competitions. I also love hanging out with friends and going shopping. It’s a real welcome break and a chance to spend time with the people who are most important to me. I always try to remember that none of this would be possible without the help from my family and friends. They’re my true drive.
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