Archive for the 'Monica Seles' Category


Monica Seles inducted into Hall of Fame.

selesOne of the greatest players of all time, Monica Seles, was officially inducted into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame at a special ceremony on Monday night at the 2009 edition of the $2-million tournament.

“As soon as I got the invitation, I said, ‘Yes, I have to do this,'” Seles said. “I haven’t played in ages, but the reception I got from the fans after I decided to come back here after being away from the sport for two and a half years, I’ll never forget. The amazing times I had in Toronto… I always loved playing here.”

“Monica is one of the tennis greats, and has a special place in Rogers Cup history,” said Caroline Papadatos, Senior Vice President, Customer and Corporate Marketing Services, Rogers Communications Inc. “Throughout her illustrious career she has consistently shown world class talent, unmatched resilience and a love of the sport that has done much for tennis and the encouragement of young athletes all over the world.”

Also on hand for the on-court presentation was Stacey Allaster, who recently succeeded Larry Scott as the Chairman & CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Allaster, who is Canadian, was with Tennis Canada for 15 years before joining the Tour in 2006.


Monday’s doubles exhibition line-up in Toronto.



Monica Seles inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame Tennis35-year-old Monica Seles was enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Newport’s grass courts Saturday. She was the world’s No. 1 women’s player for 178 weeks overall and a winner of nine Grand Slam singles titles.

 Seated during a changeover at a match in Hamburg, Germany, Seles was stabbed between the shoulder blades by a crazed fan. It would be 2 1/2 years before she returned to the sport.

“Coming back in Toronto after my stabbing, I viewed my career in two phases — before stabbing and after stabbing,” she said. “The reception that I got just reinforced my decision to return.”

Seles went on to win that tournament—the Canadian Open—one of 53 in her career, including the 1996 Australian Open.

“She won eight grand slams before she was stabbed,” said Donald Dell, also inducted Saturday. “Believe me, she would have won another nine.”

Seles was enshrined in nearly a 90-minute ceremony along with master’s player Andres Gimeno, the oldest player ever to win the French at 34 years, 10 months. Dr. Robert Johnson was inducted posthumously.

“I would like to thank all my tennis fans who were there from Day One when I was No. 1, through my stabbing, and my comeback,” Seles, dressed in white slacks with a lavender blouse, told the crowd.

Johnson, introduced by Jeanne Ashe, wife of the late Hall of Famer Arthur Ashe, helped desegregate the sport. Dell, a U.S. Davis Cup member, later helped promote and market the sport.

Seles, playfully, gave one more grunt. “For old, good time sakes,” she said.

Gimeno brought the biggest laughter from the crowd when he recalled his only major title at Roland Garros. He was introduced by 1987 Hall of Famer Stan Smith.

“I was going to leave the game without winning a big one,” he said. “I think God said, ‘Let the poor guy win one.”’


..a must read for all Tennis fans…from Monica Seles.

selesIt was Friday, April 30, 1993, a sunny day with a bracing chill in the air. I was in Hamburg for a warm-up tournament before the Paris Open, facing Magdalena Maleeva.

I was up 6–4, 4–3 in front of a crowd of 10,000 when we took a break. I remember sitting there, towelling off and thinking. Just two more games. I can close this out quickly and go home to rest. I leant forward to take a sip of water; our time was almost up and my mouth was dry. Drink this down quickly, I thought.

Doctors later told me that if I hadn’t bent forward at that precise moment, there was a good chance I would have been paralysed.

The cup had barely touched my lips when I felt a horrible pain in my back. Reflexively, my head whipped around towards where it hurt and I saw a man wearing a baseball cap and a vicious sneer. His arms were raised above his head and his hands were clutching a long knife.

He started to lunge at me again. I didn’t understand what was happening: for a few seconds I sat frozen in my chair as two people tackled him to the ground.

He had plunged the knife 1½in into my upper left back, millimetres away from my spine. I tumbled out of my chair and staggered a few steps forward before collapsing into the arms of a stranger who had run onto the court to help. My parents had stayed at the hotel that day – my dad hadn’t felt well – but Zoltan, my elder brother, was by my side in an instant.

The pain was worse than any I could have ever imagined. I heard people yelling for the paramedics. It was chaos. One thought raced around in my head: why? During the ambulance journey, as I clutched my brother’s hand, shock shielded me from the realisation that my world was falling apart.

The hospital was a blur of police officers and doctors. I didn’t understand a word of German or how bad my injury was.

On Sunday morning, two days after the stabbing, Steffi Graf came to visit me in the hospital. I’d pushed her into second place in the world rankings when I became No 1. By that time everyone knew the attacker was a deranged fan who wanted her back at the top.

Our conversation lasted just a few minutes before she said she had to leave to play in the final. I was confused. The tournament was still going on as if nothing had happened?

I’d assumed it had been cancelled. The organisers thought differently. That was a harsh lesson in the business side of tennis: it really is about making money over anything else.

After Steffi left, two police officers came into my room. One of them, a woman, was holding plastic bags. “We have evidence we need you to identify,” the other said.

I couldn’t speak as the female officer opened one of the bags and pulled out the white and pink Fila shirt I’d been wearing on court. It was ripped and covered in bloodstains. I felt I was going to throw up.

“Is this yours?” the male officer asked. I nodded. The other officer pulled out a long, curved knife. There were streaks of dried blood down the sides of the blade. The last time I’d seen it, it was being raised above my head. I had to swallow hard to keep myself from gagging.

“Is this the knife the attacker used?” the male officer asked.

I nodded quickly and stared at a spot on the wall as they packed up and left the room. As soon as the door closed, I grabbed a bowl and threw up until my stomach muscles ached.

That night I flew to a clinic in Vail, Colorado. I’d been stabbed with a 9in serrated boning knife. It had damaged the muscles and tissues surrounding my left shoulder blade, but my surgeons were cautiously optimistic that I’d make a full recovery if I followed their instructions. I might even be back for the US Open in August.

I was determined to hold on to my No 1 ranking. But within a week of the stabbing, a meeting of 17 of the top 25 players was called in Rome. They were asked to vote on whether or not to freeze my ranking while I recuperated. Nobody knew how long this would take – two weeks, two months, two years (or more, as it turned out).

They all voted with their business hats on. Every player except Gaby Sabatini of Argentina, who abstained, voted against freezing it.

I was hurt when I heard the news, but from a business standpoint I shouldn’t have been surprised. Going up one spot in the ranking system could translate to big money and new sponsorships. People were going to make a lot of money while I was away.

A sponsorship deal I had been close to signing was given to Steffi, the new No 1. Like the decision not to cancel the tournament, it wasn’t personal – it was business. But it was hard to take when the wound in my back was still fresh.

Then I was dealt some of the worst news of my life. There was a reason my dad hadn’t felt well enough to go to my match in Hamburg. He had prostate cancer.

While trying to digest this news, I learnt more about my attacker. His name was Günther Parche, an unemployed German aged 38 who had been obsessed with Steffi for years.

He’d sent her disturbing fan letters and envelopes of money, instructing her to buy herself a birthday present. He had pictures of her covering the walls of his room.

When I knocked her off the world No 1 position, he had decided “to teach Monica Seles a lesson”. He told psychiatrists that I was “not pretty. Women shouldn’t be as thin as a bone” – I was still notably skinny then.

As I recuperated that summer, I watched on television as Steffi won the French Open and Wimbledon. It should have been me. I funnelled my frustration into physical therapy, attacking it with the same intensity and focus I brought to my matches. But I was struggling to hold my arm above shoulder height.

I hadn’t heard from any player since I arrived at the clinic, and that hurt. It was like I didn’t matter, like the stabbing had never happened. I’d gone from being on the Alist to being invisible.

I started finding excuses to avoid the treadmill. The inner drive that had been my companion since I was five years old at home in the former Yugoslavia began to disappear. I became listless.

There was a problem that no CAT scan or MRI readout could diagnose. Darkness had descended into my head.

I began to cry a lot. My surgeons suggested psychotherapy, but I wasn’t ready for it. The only solace I found was going on hikes with Astro, my yorkshire terrier.

At 19, I was facing the frightening prospect of a life without tennis. Who was I without it? FOOD became the only way to silence my demons. I’d walk into the kitchen, grab a bag of crisps and a bowl of chocolate ice cream, then head to the couch and eat in front of the television.

Maybe I was bored. Maybe I was reacting to Parche’s angry comment that “women shouldn’t be as thin as a bone”. If I padded myself with extra weight, I’d be protected from being hurt again. Maybe I was scared that my comeback would fail, so by eating myself out of shape I could guarantee I’d never try.

It was the start of a decade-long battle between my mind and my body. Within weeks I gained more than 15lb and I was briefly shocked into action.

Bob Kersee, an Olympic fitness trainer, and his wife, Jackie, hit me with 10 weeks of the hardest workouts of my life. It was total hell, because I was hauling around the extra weight.

I was running like a madwoman. But the damage to my psyche was hiding behind sit-ups, push-ups, plyometrics and supersets with 20lb dumbbells. Extreme nightmares were replaced by extreme exhaustion.

As soon as the Kersees left on holiday, I went home to Florida and ate for two weeks straight. Pasta, burgers, crisps and late-night runs to Taco Bell. In 10 days I regained all the weight I’d lost.

It didn’t help that I received shocking news about my attacker. Instead of being charged with attempted murder – he had attacked me and was trying to come back for more when he was wrestled to the ground – he had been given two years’ probation for causing “bodily injury”. I was stunned.

At the same time my father’s cancer was spreading. That winter I went with him to the Mayo clinic in Minnesota, where he underwent chemotherapy. The stress put another 15lb on me. I reached the mid160s, a solid 30lb more than I’d ever weighed before. I hid my expanding waistline under sweaters and baggy track pants.

After spending the day with my dad, I’d trudge through the mid-January Minnesota snow to the Hy-Vee mega-grocery store, where I’d lose myself in the cookie and cracker aisle, loading up with Oreos, Pop-Tarts, pretzels and barbecue-flavour crisps. I knew it was wrong but I couldn’t stop myself.

When I reached the checkout queue, I’d unload my purchases onto the conveyer belt with my head down, hoping nobody would join the queue behind me to gawk at the junk. I felt empty and damaged inside, and all I wanted to do was to stuff myself with empty, damaging food.

While driving back to the hotel, I’d rip into the bag of crisps and within a few minutes it would be empty. We had a kitchenette in our suite, where I’d wait anxiously by the toaster as my frosted Pop-Tarts turned a perfect gold. The moment they were finished, I’d grab them. I burnt my fingers countless times because I couldn’t wait for them to cool off.

My binges were secret. I got rid of the empty bags and grocery store receipts so my family had no idea how much I was eating. I started having uncontrollable crying episodes in secret too.

When I couldn’t sleep at night – which was becoming more and more often – I’d get up and lose myself in another bag of cookies. My dad was sick and I couldn’t make him better. My career was in tatters and I couldn’t make it better. My eating was getting out of control and I couldn’t stop it. And the man who had stabbed me was walking around free.

I felt like a big, unhealthy, hopeless shell. I was tipping the scale at 174lb. I’d gained 40lb in less than a year. After filling up every hour of my life with tennis, I didn’t have the slightest idea of what to do without it. When we left the clinic and went home to Florida I invariably ended up on the couch, watching daytime TV.

Finally, my dad reached breaking point. While he was working on regaining his health, I was destroying mine. He told me I had to get help.

After dragging my feet and making excuses, I underwent two weeks of intense therapy and was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder, which I’d never heard of. I learnt that after a traumatic event it was possible to be haunted by intense anxiety that can leave you emotionally numb.

No amount of food or sitting on the couch was going to make this go away. But there wasn’t a rule book for getting better.

At the end of the year, I turned 21. My friends tried hard to plan something, but I felt horrible about myself. I rang in the big birthday by sitting on the couch with a bag of peanut-butter-filled pretzels. I turned off my phone and watched television until I fell asleep. I didn’t feel sorry for myself; I didn’t feel anything at all.

The next day my dad sat me down for another talk.

“What do you want to do, Monica?” “I don’t know,” I shrugged. I was flipping through the channels on the remote control. He gently took it from me.

“Are you happy?” “No, of course I’m not happy. You know that.”

An infomercial for a super-powered blender was on TV. My dad picked up the remote and turned the television off.

“What are you going to do about it?” “I don’t know.” “If you had to guess, what do you think would make you happy? College? Retiring? Starting something new?”

“I have no idea. I really don’t.” “It’s okay. There is no pressure. Don’t go back to tennis unless it is for the right reasons. It’s just a game, it’s not your life. You don’t have to decide today or tomorrow or next year.”

“I know,” I mumbled. “Your only obligation is to do what makes you happy. It is that simple.”

He was right. Financially, I didn’t have to set foot on a tennis court again. I could do whatever I wanted. Most people would love to be in that situation; why couldn’t I appreciate it?

A few weeks later I made a new year’s resolution. After 20 months of almost total seclusion I vowed to get out of the house more. I said yes to invitations. I learnt to water-ski.

I suddenly knew what would make me happy. Tennis had been my life’s passion and I still loved it. I’d already lost two years to depression and anxiety; I wasn’t ready to lose tennis too. That was what my attacker had wanted and I refused to give it to him. I MADE my comeback in an exhibition match against Martina Navratilova, who had been very supportive over the past two years. She’d sent me faxes from tournaments and had made it clear that if I decided to come back on tour, I’d be welcomed by everyone. It was something I needed to hear, since I’d felt completely isolated and abandoned after the players’ vote on rankings.

A month later, surrounded by security guards, I won the Canadian Open. I was officially back. But I wasn’t the same person I’d been on the morning of April 30, 1993.

“That’s Monica Seles? What happened to her? She looks huge!” exclaimed someone within earshot of my family in the players’ box as I was winning the 1996 Australian Open.

I was still packing an extra 20lb and my loose shirt couldn’t hide the extra roll around my waist. My thighs were on full display for everyone’s judgment. I’d never played with that kind of self-consciousness, and I hated it. For the next few years I put myself through agonising patterns of behaviour in a futile attempt to reclaim my former self. I knew I used to be a happy person, but I remained stuck in my dark place, spinning like a neurotic hamster on a wheel of quick fixes and extreme diets.

It’s amazing how the benefits of a six-hour workout can be destroyed during a 20-minute eating binge. I became very good at lying to my nutritionists and coaches. I couldn’t be left alone for a minute. I couldn’t trust myself enough to be by myself.

During those years, January 1 was a magical date for me. This year I was going to turn my life around. If I could just be thin, then everything would be okay. Each January, the first few entries in my food journal were almost identical: “January 1, 1999. A Binding, Unbreakable, Must-Do Resolution: Lose Thirty Pounds.

“This number is NON-NEGOTIABLE. “So far, off to a good start: ran on the treadmill at 7.0mph pace for an hour and did three hundred sit-ups before a two-hour hitting session. Ate one piece of wheat toast (dry) and water with lemon for breakfast.

“One apple and one half baked potato (dry) for lunch. Will have one piece of grilled chicken breast and small salad with no dressing for dinner.

“I will lose 30lb in six weeks. “I will do it.” I was always on my best behaviour for the first few days but then something would happen to stress me out, and in the time it took to open a bag of potato crisps, I was thrown right back into crazy thinking. It was the same every year. And each year the pounds piled on.

© Monica Seles 2009

Extracted from Getting a Grip: On My Game, My Body, My Mind . . . My Self by Monica Seles, to be published by JR Books on May 21 at £16.99.

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