The world's top-ranked woman and man return to defend their championships when the 16th annual Florida Open International Wheelchair Tennis Championships are played at the Patch Reef Park Tennis Center in Boca Raton.
The event, which is also the United States Tennis Association National Wheelchair Hardcourt Championships, will be played April 5-9.
Reigning women's title holder Esther Vergeer of the Netherlands carried a 171-match singles winning streak into the 2006 wheelchair tour and has stretched it to 182 by winning three tournaments already this year. Through February she has won 286 of her last 287 matches, a stretch which includes the gold medals in the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Australia, and the 2004 Games in Athens.
The 24-year-old Vergeer will be seeking her fourth straight Florida Open crown and her fifth overall. The Women's Open draw includes the five top-ranked players in the world as well as No. 26 Jan Proctor of Delray Beach who was recently named to the
U.S. team for World Team Cup in May.
Michael Jeremiasz of France, the top-ranked man, is vying for his second Florida Open title in a row. He will face a challenge from No. 2-ranked Robin Ammerlaan of the Netherlands, a finalist last year and the 2003 and 2004 Florida Open winner.
The quadriplegic main draw is headed by No. 1 David Wagner of Oro Valley, AZ, and No. 2 Peter Norfolk of Great Britain, the defending champion.
There is no admission charge for the five-day event. Matches begin each day at 8 a.m. and conclude by 7 p.m.
In addition to the top-level pros, players of all abilities compete at the appropriate level in the Florida Open, which has a field of 151 players from 18 countries.
South Florida players competing this year are Julia Dorsett of Boca Raton, David Gant of Riviera Beach, Jose Gomez of Royal Palm Beach, Pani Herath and Herman Sanchez of Miami, Kenny Hernandez and Juana Hurtado of Hialeah, Bruce Karr and Nick Mancuso of Boynton Beach, John Karter of Margate, Dayana Delgado of West Palm Beach and Mike Witkowsky of Delray Beach.
The tournament is conducted by the National Wheelchair Sports Fund.
2005 Florida Open Winners: