News about Sonja
News from 2003 and 2002

October 29th 2004
For Sonja the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters are over. She lost her match to Sakhorn Khanthasit from Thailand 5-7, 1-6. Sonja had to win this match to secure a place in the semi finals. "The score went up quite even in the first set, but I just did not have enough power to win it" was Sonja's comment after the match. "In the second set I lost a bit of concentration. Although I did not play bad I got punished for that: 1-6. At this level you have to produce your best tennis to be able to win." And so the tournament has ended for Sonja.

On November 7 Sonja will fly to South Africa as player-ambassador of the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Silver Fund. This fund assists and supports less developed countries in setting up a wheelchair tennis programme through the donation of wheelchairs and other tennis equipment. From you Sonja already received a number of rackets and a wheelchair which she will take along with her. Many thanks!!!! During her stay of a number of days Johan Cruijff, ex-international footballer and trainer and one of the sponsors of the Silver Fund, will visit a number of projects. Next Sonja will take a break for a number of months in order to fully concentrate on finishing up her study child neuropsychology at the Free University in Amsterdam. She even skips the tournaments in Australia where it is so nice and warm at that time...... We wish Sonja lots of success with the work on her social carreer.
October 28th 2004
Sonja has won her second match of the round robin by defeating Maaike Smit 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. "Things went reasonably well" was Sonja's comment after the match. "In the beginning of the first set I made a numer of mistakes and was down 1-3. But then I got better and made five games in a row and won 6-3. The second set I played a little less good and it went to Maaike 3-6, but in the third set I was in really good shape and won 6-4.
On Thursday at 12.00h Sonja will take on Sakhorn Khantasit from Thailand. This is the key match: both have lost to Jiske Griffioen anf both have defeated Maaike Smit. The winner will proceed to the semifinals, for the other the tournament will be over. So it is goin to be tense. We will keep you informed.
October 27th 2004
This week the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters are held in Amersfoort. The best eight men and women of the world ranking list participate in this world championship, and of course Sonja is part of it.

Sonja has a pretty tough draw, even considering that only the best are present. Her part of the round robin further include Maaike Smit (NED), Jiske Griffioen (NED) and Sakhorn Khanthasit (THA). The other round robin consists of Esther Vergeer (NED), Sharon Walraven (NED), Florence Gravellier (FRA) and Britta Siegers (GER).

In her first match on Tuesday evening Sonja had to take on Paralympics doubles partner Jiske Griffioen. Sonja started with a lot of drive and won the first set 6-3. Both players are hardhitters and the public could enjoy the unbelievably fast balls that were flying over the court. In the second set Sonja started to make more mistakes and Jiske took over the initiative: 1-6. Also in the third set Sonja could not put up enough pressure. She came back from 1-3 to 3-3 but then Jiske finished it off 3-6.

On Wednesday, Sonja will play Maaike Smit not before 17.30 h.

Results, news and other information can be found on www.wheelchairtennis.nl
October 20th 2004
Sonja has not yet completely recovered from the emotions and the fatigues of the Paralympic Games. At the US Open she hardly survived the opening match of the singles, but got away with a scare. Unseeded Jan Proctor (USA) snatched the first set 6-4 and then forced a second set tie-break. Sonja needed all her experience to survive but then easily completed the third set 6-0. "It was a strange experience," Sonja told after the match "I just did not know how to play tennis for a while and I feel very tired." That also was a problem in the semifinals. After a first set win to Maaike Smit, Sonja could not longer upset her and lost 6-2, 3-6, 3-6.

In the doubles Sonja reached the finals together with Korie Homan. That was an all-Dutch affair in which they lost in straight sets to top seeds Jiske Griffioen and Saturdays Singles champion Maaike Smit: 6-3, 6-2. Coming year Sonja will team up with Korie for the doubles as much as possible.

Sonja will end the season with the prestigious NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters, an invitation tournament for the top eight players, that will be held in Amersfoort (NED) from October 26-31.
Report from the paralympics
September 7th 2004
The participation of Sonja in the Citta di Livorno in Italy was for her and the rest of the Dutch Paralympic team a good test for Athens, with temperatures up to 36°C (97°F). In the singles Sonja lost in the semi-finals to Sharon Walraven 6-7(3), 2-6. "In the first set I played a good match" Sonja tells, "but in the second set I got tired". That is the after-effect of a heavy cold of which Sonja has recovered thanks to antibiotics. In the doubles Sonja and Sharon came through a tough semi-final against Myung-Hee Hwang and Young Suk Hong (KOR) 76(3), 75. Their 1-6, 1-6 loss in the finals to Esther Vergeer and Maaike Smit was somewhat flattered as they gave them pretty good opposition.

On Thursday the whole Dutch Paralympic team will fly to Malta for a last training camp and then things are going to happen! Sonja is eagerly looking forward to it.
July 26th 2004
Sonja has stranded in the semi finals of the British Open Super Series tournament in Nottingham. Troubled by a severe cold, she lost to second seed Daniela di Toro in an even match, unfortunately not able to prolongue her finals placing of last year. Together with Sharon Walraven, Sonja was eliminated in the quarter finals of the doubles by the Swiss pairing of Sandra Kalt and Karin Suter-Erath: 2-6, 5-7. Sonja can now enjoy a few weeks rest before the final preparations for the Paralympics: a CS1 tournament in Livorno, Italy and a training camp at Malta, after which the Dutch team directly proceeds to Athens.
July 12th 2004
Dutch Open 2004 Sonja has made it through to both finals at the Dutch Open in Rotterdam. In the singles she reached the finals through a hard fought and nerve wrecking win over world's number two Danila di Toro: 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Sonja has played Daniela many times and most of the time Danni proved to be the strongest in the past: 17-5, however the score for 2004 is 2-2, so that really looks good.
In the finals Sonja had to face Esther Vergeer, but Esther proved to be a class of its own: 2-6, 0-6. "I played good tennis", Sonja tells after the match "but Esther just was better and I just did not get a chance to get a grip on the match. Quite frustrating".
The finals of the doubles was a clash beteen the two Dutch Paralympic doubles teams. Sonja and Sharon Walraven lost with small margin to Esther Vergeer and Maaike Smit: 3-6, 3-6.

July 5th 2004
Sonja has continued the French Open women's singles title in Paris. In a nailbiting three set match she defeated Japanese Mie Yaosa in the finals of this CS1 tournament. In the third set Sonja was cheered on by the enhousiastic crowd and managed to come back strongly from 2-5 and finally secure the title in the tiebreak:3-6, 6-3, 7-6(7-1). Because of rain the mach was played indoor.
Things didn't run smoothly on beforehand as Sonja was troubled earlier in the week by a rib that was shifted. She woke up with that and after the doubles match that day it could be put back in place. However the tissue around the rib became inflamed, but with some medicine and pain-killers things could be turned right again. In the doubles Sonja also reached the finals, together with Paralympic partner Sharon Walraven. They were defeated however by the Japanese-German couple of Mie Yaosa/Britta Siegers: 4-6, 3-6.
June 4th 2004
Sonja has finished as runner up at the USTA Roho Gateway Classic in St. Louis (USA). In the finals of this CS1 tournament she lost in three sets to compatriot Sharon Walraven: 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(4). That was quite disappointing to Sonja who started the match as favourite. It was a close match but in the third set Sonja made a number of double service faults which enabled Sharon to secure victory in the tiebreak.
In the doubles finals Sonja and Sharon Walraven had quite some difficulty in defeating the American pairing of Sharon Clark and Kaitlyn Verfuerth, but eventually succeeded in three sets: 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

Since it was an indoor tournament, the weather did not bother the schedule. Luckily so, because early in the week there were some heavy thunderstorms followed later in the week by a number of tornado alarms. St. Louis is situated in the so-called "Tornado alley". Everybody had to go to an underground shelter and wait till the safe-signal was given. "I have never seen such an inky black skies" Sonja writes. "It is really very spooky".
May 18th 2004
At the Japan Open Sonja has reached the singles semi finals. However she could not upset Daniela di Toro and lost 2-6, 1-6. “I played well, that wasn’t the problem” Sonja tells at the phone “but Danni just was a lot better and there was little I could do about it”.
Together with Sharon Walraven she won through to the doubles finals. Hard hitting was the order of the day. However, what could have been expected to be a close match turned out to be much the opposite. Forced and unforced errors from Sonja Peters and Sharon Walraven made all the difference in the first set as Esther and Jiske clean swept the set 6-0. Unfortunately for Sonja and Sharon nothing changed in the second set, with Esther and Jiske proving just too strong and too consistent as they finished the match without dropping a game.
May 14th 2004
Based on the international ranking list the Dutch Tennis Federation has nominated a number of players for the Paralympic Games 2004 in Athens. Sonja was one of them. She more than earned this nomination through her excellent third spot on the ranking list both in the singles and doubles and as second highest ranked Dutch women's player, next to Esther Vergeer.

We have now got the message that the nomination of Sonja has been confirmed by the Dutch Olympic Committee, so now her participation is a fact!!!!

Other women's players are Esther Vergeer, Maaike Smit en Sharon Walraven. Jiske Griffioen is nominated as a reserve. Men's players are Robin Ammerlaan en Erik Stuurman. For the Quads Bas van Erp has been confirmed. The nomination of Monique de Beer is pending due to the classification procedure of the number three of the world.
In the doubles Sonja will team up with Sharon Walraven and also in this discipline Sonja has chances to win a medal.

We are looking forward to the Paralympics which will be held in Athens from September 17 through 28.
April 15th 2004
Sonja stumbled in the quarter finals at the Florida Open.
In the singles she lost to compatriot and rising talent Jiske Griffioen in three sets: 4-6, 7-6(5), 3-6. "It was a reasonable match", Sonja analyses. "Tactically I played OK, stayed calm, but my strokes did not work out well and I missed a lot of balls. I certainly did not underestimate Jiske who has a burgeoning career and meanwhile has moved to the sixth spot on the ranking list."

Sonja's comment about the doubles match together with Sharon Walraven was short : "I played very poor." The match was lost to the Japanese double of Yuka Chokyo en Mie Yaosa 6-7, 0-6.

This week the ITF has published the list of direct entry slots for the Paralympic Games in Athens. Due to her third spot on the ranking list Sonja qualified by direct entry, together with no.1 Esther Vergeer. Quite a difference to the stress four years ago when Sonja was dependent on the granting of a wild card. The next step is that the nominations are confirmed by the Dutch Tennis Federation and the Dutch Olympic Committee.
April 5th 2004
Sonja has reached both semifinals of the Nasdaq 100 Open Championships in Key Biscayne, USA. This invitational tournament for the world's best sixteen men and eight women is held parallel to the ATP tournament.

In the singles semifinals Sonja had the worst of it and lost to Daniela di Toro 4-6, 5-7. "We both played very well and the match went on quite even," Sonja tells. "I certainly had chances, but at some important points things just did not work out. Sometimes these things happen, the ball just drops at the wrong side of the line. I played quite disciplined and I can't put my finger on it what is causing this, I take it that it is just bad luck. But nevertheless it is frustrating to have lost."

In the doubles Sonja lost together with Sharon Walraven, also in the semifinals, to the Australian/American couple of Daniela di Toro/Sharon Clark 2-6, 3-6.
March 9th 2004
During the first week of March Sonja paid a second visit to South Africa as player-ambassador of the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Silverfund. Together with coach John Noakes and with help of local people Sonja has trained a number of South African wheelchairtennis players during one week. It was very tiring, both for them as well as for the players, to be intensely active with wheelchair tennis during the whole day, but at the end of the week everybody was very happy with the results and the progress that had been made. Two South African players will be granted a wild card for the Paralympics by the ITF, which will no doubt give a big boost to get this fantastic sport off to a good start in this part of the African continent.
February 16th 2004
Sonja has performed very well in Melbourne at the Australian Open which is a Super Series tournament, comparable to a Grand Slam.
Under extreme wheather conditions she defeated home favourite and world's number two Daniela di Toro in the singles semi-finals 7-6(10), 3-6, 6-0. "In fact I didn't start the match in a very good shape" Sonja tells. "Due to the high heat with temperatures up to 41 degrees C, we would get an adapted order of play, but that was not available until around midnight and next morning I had to get up at about six 'o clock to play my match at a quarter past eight. In the first set it was 0-2 in no time, but I could turn that around in 4-2. Danni came back and even got two setpoints. The tiebreak that followed was very close with chances at both sides. I even served two double faults at own setpoints, but nevertheless won 12-10. The first set alone took over one hour and twenty minutes! Danni won the second set 3-6, but in the third set she was tired and started to make a lot of mistakes. I could keep concentrating well and won 6-0".
The doubles semi-finals that followed, together with American partner Sharon Clark, again was a three-set affair. With a 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 win over the Swiss-German couple of Sandra Kalt and Britta Siegers the finals placing was earned. All in all Sonja had been on court at these extreme temepratures for over six hours and she was very tired.
In the finals Sonja had not recovered fully of the strenuous matches of the day before. "Everything felt very heavy and I had sore muscles everywhere, but the physiotherapists did a good job". But nevertheless Sonja could not put enough pressure on Esther Vergeer and was defeated 1-6, 3-6. Also the doubles was lost to Esther Vergeer and Maaike Smit 3-6, 2-6.
But Sonja certainly has shown that she can perform very well under the extreme conditions that can also occurr in Athens.
February 9th 2004
Sonja has been troubled by injuries in her favourite city Sydney. In the singles Sonja was defeated in her first match by Karin Suter-Erath from Switzerland. As Sonja wrote early this week:
"Well, this tournament suspiciously looks the same like last year's............again Karin Erath in the first round.........again far too much wind.......and again I was defeated big time: 1-6, 2-6. She plays quite well with wind and I still have a lot of problems with it. Moreover I am still troubled by my neck and shoulder. This morning I have been at the physio for treatment and tomorrow morning I have to come back again. The good thing about losing is that I now can take it easy for the rest of the week, playing doubles is not so strenuous, and hopefully recover soon completely instead that it keeps on simmering. The last thing I would like to have is a chronic injury. For the rest it is quite pleasant ere. There are a lot of people and of course the city is nice as before. I don't think I will go anywhere particularly, but is already very pleasant to go and eat a little at the harbour".
But alas! Sonja also had to withdraw from the doubles because her partner Sharon Walraven suffered from overheating in her singles due to the high temperatures and extreme humidity and was taken to hospital for a few days. Meanwhile the inflammated shoulder has disappearde due to physiotherapy in combination ith mediation and Sonja expects to be totally fit for the Australian Open coming week.
February 3d 2004
The Wheelchair Tennis Classic 8s is an invitation tournament for the world's best eight men and women and was held last week together with the Australian Grand Slam tournament in Melbourne. In the singles Sonja had the worst possible draw and had to play first seed Esther Vergeer in the first round. Sonja had not much of a chance and lost 2-6, 2-6. In the doubles Sonja and partner Sharon Walraven made it to the finals. This was an all-Dutch affair with Esther Vergeer and Maaike Smit as opponents. The first set was lost 3-6, but in the second set Sharon and Sonja grew better and better and lost with just a small margin 6-7 (3-7) in the tiebreak. It has been a long time since Sonja and Sharon played with each other but they intend to play the doubles together for the rest of the season.
Earlier in the week Sonja went on a boat trip in New Zealand together with some people from the Dutch World Team Cup delegation to spot whales. Indeed they have seen two whales. An impressive sight, but Sonja did not fully get it all, as she was pretty busy herself at times feeding the fish.
In addition Sonja has suffered a pretty annoying inflammation of the shoulder and a stiff neck. She has medication and spent several hours at the physio but expects to be completely fit for the forthcoming Sydney Summer Open.
January 26th 2004
Together with the Dutch women's team Sonja has won the Invacare World Team Cup for the fifth time in her tennis carreer. This world championship for national teams which can be compared to the Davis Cup and Fed Cup has been held last week in Christchurch, New Zealand with tems from more than 30 countries. The Dutch team was seeded first and with coaches Aad Zwaan and Ton Jansen reached the finals against fourth seed Sitzerland without dropping a set. In the finals Sonja easily defeated Sandra Kalt 6-1, 6-2. Team member Esther Vergeer finished the job and beat Karin Suter-Erath just as easily with the same figures. The doubles was not played anymore, the win was theirs. Other team members were Maaike Smit and Jiske Griffioen.
The dominance of the Dutch wheelchair tennis was underlined further by the title win of the mens team and the junior team as well as the runner-up position of the Quads.
Dutch women's team

January 16th 2004
Groupphoto with Sonja Early November, Sonja visited South Africa for two weeks as a player-ambassador of the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Silver Fund. This fund assists and supports less developed countries in setting up a wheelchair tennis programme through the donation of wheelchairs and other tennis equipment. An experienced coach, in this case John Noakes, visited the country for a period of eight weeks, assisted by Sonja as player -ambassador. Funding is done by the Johan Cruyff Welfare Foundation and the Dutch Ministry of Sports.

Below are some of Sonja's impressions of this trip.

Although I had heard a lot about the country I didn´t have a clear idea of what the country would be like. I knew the differences between rich and poor would be big but I could have never imagined how it is when first world and third world are mixed in one country. The first week in Cape Town we visited a lot of schools. We worked with non handicapped white children or with handicapped black and coloured children. The difference between the two groups is huge. The black children are underpriviliged and being handicapped makes their living conditions even harder. When the kids first saw me they wanted to touch my wheelchair, that is how amazed they were to see such a nice wheelchair. The second week we went to Johannesburg and there we worked with more different kind of groups. We had the chance to visit Soweto and even gave a clinic at a school in the middle of the shacks. Seeing this world so different to the one I am living in made me realize how lucky I am but also showed me that the spirit people have has got little to do with the circumstances they live in. The courage and enthusiasm was overwhelming and heartwarming and definitely motivated me to do whatever I could to help them make one of their dreams come through....to play wheelchair tennis.

The most impressive thing I have experienced in South Africa was the spirit of the people. They were willing to learn and work very hard to gain their goal. Despite having very little, they believed in themselves and tried to find a way to make adjustments so that things that seemed impossible for them became a possibility.

One of the things that will always stay with me were a few kids on the street in Soweto. They saw us play tennis and we invited them over to come and join the clinic. After the clinic we gave each child a tennisball which made them very happy. A few kids came to ask if they could get a tennisball but when I asked if they hadn´t already got one they were honest and said they did. I know a lot of children who could get almost anything they want, that would tell a little lie to get another ball. These kids are streetsmart enough to know how to get things, but appreciated so much what they got that they didn´t want to be dishonest.

Another one that impressed me deeply was Rafael, a 24 year old guy from one of the Townships around Johannesburg. He has got Cerebral Palsy and had little coordination but for 2 hours he kept working as hard as he could to be able to hit that tennisball over the net. He kept saying how unbelievable it was that he was actually playing tennis and was dreaming about how he would come to my country to play tennis with me. We put him in one of the sportschairs we had brought and he was beaming all over. We even let him do pushing drills and when I wanted to take a break to have a drink he refused and wanted to keep going! Photo of Rafael

I am positive that my visit made a big difference to these unadvantaged children. The reactions from the kids were heartwarming. It was obvious they were having a lot of fun and for them to see they could also do sports was a big confidence boost. They appreciated very much the fact that people came over from a country so far away to pay attention to them and to help. Many kids asked me for my phonenumber, in an instant I became a hero for them. It is so much more than just about tennis. For them to see that being handicapped doesn´t make you so much different from the rest of the people was important I think. And of course the equipment and the free coaches we provided them with made a huge difference to what they can do now. There are not always tenniscourts around at the schools but a schoolhall and some improvised tennis nets can be a lot of fun too!

I think that by reading such a small part of so many of experiences it is already clear that I would love to visit another project. I have seen how much can change within a few weeks support by the Silver Fund. It is very rewarding work and I feel a bond with the work I did there. I already promised to be the first player to enter the tournament as soon as they got a South African Open!