The world no. 2 Wheelchair Tennis star from Germany wants to recapture the no. 1 spot again next year. I had a chance to hang out with Sabine Ellerbrock at the 2013 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters in Mission Viejo last month.
Born 1975 in Bielefeld, Germany, Sabine Ellerbrock is not one of the younger players on the international Wheelchair tennis tour. In comparison, the current world no.1 Aniek Van Koot from Holland is 15 years younger, and world no. 3, Yui Kamiji from Japan is 19 years younger than her. Sabine makes up for the age difference with power, mobility, and an unbreakable spirit to succeed.
Sabine plays tennis since she was 6 years of age, in addition to an active life in many other sport disciplines, like Badminton, Handball, Basketball, Surfing, Soccer, and running Marathons. After 25 years as an able bodied sports jock she experienced a foot infection following surgery, probably caused by long-term effects of Cortisone treatments, Sabine was subsequently diagnosed with the very painful and dangerous acute compartment syndrome, leading to permanent muscle damage in her foot and even more pain. In a Nov. 2011 interview with Jürgen Bröker in Germany’s influential newspaper ZEIT, Sabine really sees only one realistic solution for getting rid of the immense pain permanently, amputation of her leg.
Two years after this life altering event, Sabine decided to pick up tennis again – in a wheelchair. In March of 2009 she played her first tournament and found a wheelchair sponsor, German chair manufacturer PRO ACTIV. After finishing her education in Sports and Biology, she also works as a part time teacher.
“Playing wheelchair tennis in Germany is not as easy as it is in other countries, like Holland or here in the USA. Antiquated regulations, lack of financial support, and very little public interest make it extremely difficult to play the sport,” says Sabine. But she considers herself lucky to be able to take advantage of some of the best coaching staff in Germany. “I am training at GERRY WEBER BREAKPOINT-BASE in Halle, like the hitting partners there, love my trainer Pitr Zamecnik, and here in Mission Valley I have German National Trainer Christoph Müller by my side. Since both Pitr and Christoph are coaching me I have become much more successful.” Sabine also picked up a sponsorship by German gaming manufacturer Gauselman.
And the results speak for themselves. 2013 was a banner year for her. Coming in with a world #1 singles ranking after winning the Queensland Open in Australia, she had enormous success worldwide:
W ITF Be Active Adelaide Wheelchair Open
SF APIA Sidney International Wheelchair Open
SF Melbourne Open
F Australian Open
SF Atlanta Open
W BNP Paribas 2013 World Team Cup (Korea Rep.)
SF Japan Open
F French Open
F BNP Paribas Open de France
F British Open
F Belgian Open
F Salzburg Open
F Austrian open
F Trofeo Della Mole (Torino, Italy)
F US Open
F Sardinia Open (Italy)
F Open de la Baie Somme (France)
F Nottingham Indoor (England)
If it wasn’t for a severe bout with tennis elbow in her right arm, Sabine would have had a good chance to win the 2013 NEC Wheelchair Masters. She played here singles and doubles until she couldn’t stand the pain anymore. She says, “Time for more injections and then back home to Germany for resting until next year.”
Despite her Gauselman sponsorship and her high world ranking it is extremely difficult for Sabine Ellerbrock to afford traveling the world competing in Wheelchair Tennis. Except for playing the lucrative Paris Tournament, she is lucky to come out slightly ahead playing events in Europe. Playing in Asia or in the USA means losing money for her. But that can’t discourage this woman at all. Her big target is participation in the Olympic Games in Rio 2016. The 2012 Semifinalist would like to show the world again what she is capable of.
Good luck, Sabine!
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