Class of 2017
World No. 1 (Singles and Doubles)
Grand Slam Results
8-time major champion
Overall Record: 198-32
Singles Record: 151-25
Doubles Record: 47-7
ITF World Champion
1992, 1993, 1994, 1995
Gold medal in Women’s Singles and Women's Doubles, 1992 Barcelona Games
Gold medal in Women’s Doubles, Silver Medal in Women’s Singles, 1996 Atlanta Games
Monique Kalkman-van den Bosch: Grace & Grit
Serene self-possession and understated tenacity would always define her. It would bring her to the top of the world, just as she’d always dreamed – but likely, also in ways she’d never dared imagine. Then again, who would dare envision such a path?
The desire to play tennis struck Monique Kalkman-van den Bosch very early in her life. At the age of five, as she rummaged through her parents’ attic at their home in the Netherlands, Monique came across an old wood frame. Her curiosity piqued, van den Bosch began to swing it around her house. A week later, her brother pointed something out to his sister. The clunky, heavy device that held the frame – known in those days as a “press” – was intended strictly to hold the racquet and keep it from warping. Perhaps even then, van den Bosch knew it would take exceptional strength to bring her dreams to life.
A Passionate Athlete
Most of all, the young Monique van den Bosch was a committed athlete. Besides the tennis, there was also hockey, sailing, horseback riding, water polo. During those years, van den Bosch’s goals crystallized. She was going to be a world class athlete or a sports instructor – preferably both.
Tennis thoroughly captivated her. Born in 1964, van den Bosch came of age during tennis’ boom years, that revolutionary period when the sport was making its transformation from the amateur era into Open tennis, a bold and expansive era of money, media exposure and color. van den Bosch’s favorite players covered the spectrum of genius: baseliner Chris Evert and net-rusher Martina Navratilova, a pair of great athletes who persistently brought out the best in each other.
Everything Changed At 14
Then, disaster. In 1978, at the age of 14, van den Bosch was diagnosed with cancer. Though cured of the disease, she was left paralyzed below the waist. Would van den Bosch ever play a sport again? “It looked like that dream was shattered,” she would say in 2017, “that it was shattered to pieces. I went back on the court in my hospital chair, and my friends raced around so I could play a rally on the court. But a match, there was no way I even thought about playing a match at that time. I thought I would never play again.”
As Monique’s fellow International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee, Billie Jean King, once said, “Persistence is a talent.” Rapidly, van den Bosch demonstrated this principle with a vengeance. “When I was in the hospital, fighting for my life, I learned to dig deep,” she would say years later. “That helped me on the sports field, as well. Once you have experienced the edge of life and death, life on the court becomes easier.” Within six years, she had become a Paralympic champion in table tennis. Given all she had been through, that alone was a magnificent achievement. But it was only the beginning.
A Wheelchair Champion
The ‘70s had seen the rise of wheelchair tennis, such pioneers as Brad Parks and Randy Snow leading the ascent of this new and innovative racquet sport. In 1986, Peter Seegers, a Dutch coach, introduced Monique to the game. Calling Parks and Snow her heroes, Monique said, “I was so impressed by how they raced around the court, when I still sitting in my hospital chair, just getting out of it. I was so inspired by these guys driving their own chairs rather than being pushed around.”
With all the tenacity she had demonstrated her entire life, van den Bosch threw herself into the world of wheelchair tennis. She began to point herself towards a major event. The 1992 Summer Olympics, set to take place in Barcelona, would feature wheelchair tennis – not just as a test sport or exhibition, but as a full-fledged competition. Having earned a silver medal at the demonstration event held during the ’88 Olympics in Seoul, van den Bosch wanted even more.
Making this happen, though, required a significant upgrade. Her game had mostly been based on flat, hard drives. Now, as Barcelona neared, van den Bosch altered her playing style. Angles, spins, variations in pace – all of this entered the picture. At first, it was frustrating, van den Bosch taking losses to players she’d previously beaten handily. But working closely with her coach, Marc Kalkman, the man who in time would become the love of her life, van den Bosch kept her sights on improvement and the big picture.
Everything came together in Barcelona, van den Bosch taking the gold medals in singles and doubles with another future inductee, Chantal Vandierendonck. Four years later, at the ’96 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Monique would once again take a gold in doubles with Vandierendonck, as well as a silver in singles.
Ranked number one in the world in both singles and doubles, van den Bosch, would also be the ITF Wheelchair Tennis World Champion four straight years (’92-’95), an eight-time singles champion in Super Series events and twice win the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters, accumulating a 151-25 record in singles and 53-7 in doubles.
By the late ‘90s, van den Bosch, now known as Monique Kalkman-van den Bosch, had decided it was time to make a transition. Nineteen ninety-seven would be her last year of competition. Over the course of that season, Kalkman-van den Bosch worked with a talented and driven teenager, Esther Vergeer. “She was so eager,” said Kalkman-van den Bosch. “It was terrific to help her.” The 1997 Masters in Eindhoven, Netherlands, would be Kalkman-van den Bosch’s last tournament. After losing a close final, Kalkman-van den Bosch approached Vergeer and another player she’d worked closely with, Sonja Peters. Handing her Wilson Hammer racquets to the two rising stars, Kalkman-van den Bosch issued a friendly but firm declaration: “Now it’s your turn.” The torch had been passed. Vergeer and Peters each would have superb careers, Peters earning Olympic gold and the US Open title, Vergeer registering 42 Grand Slam titles. Each would owe a considerable debt to Kalkman-van den Bosch – competitor, mentor, inspiration.
Shortly after Kalkman-van den Bosch began to compete in wheelchair tennis, she flew to California for a six-week training block. Arriving in Los Angeles by herself, Kalkman-van den Bosch got behind the wheel of her rental car and headed towards the freeway. There she was, a young lady from a small country, barreling down a six-lane American highway.
Suddenly, not just ordinary traffic, but a horrific, Southern California traffic jam. Quickly, with all her strength, Monique pushed the hand controls. But instead of a stop, the car accelerated, the pedals in America working exactly the opposite of how they worked in Europe. Rapidly – incredibly rapidly – Kalkman-van den Bosch pulled the car off the road. Her heartbeat was now 180 ticks per second. Gathering her breath, she slowly got back on the highway. “But those seconds,” she would later say, “probably were symbolic for the flow of my tennis life.” Speed, power, agility, tenacity – Monique Kalkman-van den Bosch had all the ingredients of a champion.
-- Joel Drucker, International Tennis Hall of Fame historian-at-large