Monica Seles

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Monica Seles (born December 2, 1973) is a former World No. 1 tennis player. During her career, Seles won nine Grand Slam singles titles and became the youngest-ever champion at the French Open in 1990. She was the most dominant player in the women's game during the early-1990s. However in 1993 Seles was stabbed by a crazed fan of rival player Steffi Graf. Following this incident, she did not play on the tour again for over two years. She enjoyed some further success after returning to the competitive game in 1995, but was never again able to consistently reproduce her very best form.


Monica Seles (in Serbian Monika Seleš) was born in Novi Sad, Vojvodina, Serbia (then Yugoslavia, now Serbia and Montenegro) in 1973. She is an ethnic Hungarian (her name is spelled Szeles Mónika in the Hungarian language, using the Hungarian convention of family name first).

Seles began playing tennis at the age of six, coached by her father Karolj Seleš. She won her first tournament at the age of nine (despite not fully understanding the scoring system of the game and having only a vague idea of whether she was leading or trailing her opponents during her matches). In 1985 at the age of 11, she won the prestigious Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, and caught the attention of tennis coach Nick Bollettieri. In 1986, the Seleš family moved from Yugoslavia to the United States, and Monica enrolled in the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, where she trained for two years.

Seles played her first professional tournament in 1988 at the age of 14. The following year she joined the professional tour full-time and won her first career title at Houston in May 1989, where she beat Chris Evert in the final. A month later, Seles reached the semifinals in her first Grand Slam appearance at the French Open, where she lost to World No. 1 Steff Graf. Seles finished her first year on the tour ranked World No. 6.

With punishing two-fisted forehand and backhand shots and a strong return of serve, Seles is considered by many to be the first "power player" in the women's game (paving the way for subsequent stars like Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova). She was also well-known for grunting loudly on court as she blasted balls over the net. On a few occassions this led to complaints from opponents (who claimed that it was distracting and prevented them from hearing the ball make contact with her racquet), and warnings from umpires to keep the noise down.

Seles won her first Grand Slam title at the French Open in 1990. Facing World No. 1 Graf in the final, Seles saved four set-points in a first-set tie-breaker (which she won 8-6), and went on to take the match in straight-sets. In doing so, she became the youngest-ever French Open champion at the age of 16 years, 6 months.

1991 was the first of two years in which Seles completely dominated the women's tour. She started out by winning the Australian Open in January, beating Jana Novotná in the final. In March, she dethroned Graf as the World No. 1. She then successfully defended her French Open title, beating the former youngest-ever winner Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in the final. However after that she did not play at Wimbledon, and instead took a six-week break, blaming shin splints. But she was back in time for the US Open, and won it beating Martina Navrátilová in the final to cement her position at the top of the world rankings. She also helped Yugoslavia win the Hopman Cup that year.

1992 was an equally dominant year. She successfully defended her titles at the Australian Open, the French Open, and the US Open. She also made the final at Wimbledon, but could not manage to break Graf's one remaining area of dominance on the grass court surface and lost 6-2, 6-1.

During the period from January 1991 to February 1993, Seles won 22 titles and reached 33 finals out of the 34 tournaments she played in. She compiled an astounding 159-12 win-loss record (92.9% winning percentage), including a 55-1 win-loss record in Grand Slam tournaments. In the broader context of her first four years on the circuit (1989-1992), Seles had a win-loss record of 231-25 (90.2% winning percentage), and collected 30 titles. Only Chris Evert had a better first four years in terms of winning percentage (91.1% from 1971 to 1974) and titles (34) in the Open era.

Despite the blip at Wimbledon in 1992, Seles had clearly dethroned Graf as the dominant player on the women's tour heading in to 1993. And there was every reason to believe that this would continue to be the case for some years to come, especially when Seles beat Graf in the final to claim her third consecutive Australian Open crown in January 1993.

But everything changed following an incident which shocked the tennis world on April 30, 1993. During a quarter-final match between Seles and Magdalena Maleeva at Hamburg, a 38-year-old deranged and obsessive fan of Steffi Graf named Günter Parche ran from middle of the crowd to the edge of the court during a break between games and plunged a steak knife between Seles's shoulder blades. She let out a piercing scream and was quickly rushed to hospital. Her physical injuries took a few weeks to heal. But the psychological scars from this incident left a much deeper impression on Seles, and she did not return to competitive tennis for over two years. (Parche was charged following the incident, but was not jailed because he was found to be psychologically abnormal and was instead sentenced to two years' probation and psychological treatment. The incident prompted a significant increase in the levels of security at events on the tour.) [1]

In Seles's absence, Graf re-established herself as the leading player on the women's tour and regained the World No. 1 ranking, fulfilling the hopes of Parche.

During her exile from competitive tennis, Seles became a United States citizen on May 17, 1994.

Seles returned to the tour in August 1995 and won her first come-back tournament, the Canadian Open, beating Amanda Coetzer in the final 6-1, 6-0. This prompted many to believe that she could soon be dominating the circuit again in the way she was before the 1993 stabbing incident. The following month at the US Open, Seles met Graf in the final and lost in a dramatic battle 7-6, 0-6, 6-3.

In January 1996 Seles won her fourth Australian Open, beating Anke Huber in the final. But this was to be her last Grand Slam title. As time went on, it became clear that the psychological effects of the stabbing incident still weighed very heavily on Seles, and she struggled to recapture her best form on a regular basis. Her difficulties were compounded by having to cope with her father and long-term coach Karolj being stricken by cancer, and eventually passing away in 1998. Seles was runner-up at the US Open to Graf again in 1996. Her last Grand Slam final came at the French Open in 1998 (a few weeks after her father's death), when she lost to Sánchez Vicario.

After becoming a US citizen, Seles helped the US team win the Fed Cup in 1996 and 2000. She also won a Bronze Medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

After winning 53 career titles up to 2003, Seles sustained a nagging foot injury that sidelined her from the tour. In February 2005, she played two exhibition matches in New Zealand against Martina Navrátilová. Although Seles lost both matches, she played competitively and was reportedly free from pain in her problematic foot. It is expected that she may return to the tour some time in 2005.

In many people's mind, Seles's achievements during her career make her one of the all-time great woman tennis players. However there will always be the question of how much more she might have achieved had she not been stabbed in 1993. The quality of tennis displayed by Graf during her forced retirement seems to suggest Seles could have actually implemented the gap between her and the German player and definitely take over, and possibly go on to win the 1994 Championships in Wimbledon (a lackluster edition won by clay court-specialist Conchita Martinez, where Graf showed up in poor shape and lost in the first round). As it is though, there is no way to tell what could've been.

Grand Slam finals

Wins (9)

Year     Championship            Opponent in Final          Score in Final
1990     French Open             Steffi Graf                7-6, 6-4   
1991     Australian Open         Jana Novotná               5-7, 6-3, 6-1
1991     French Open             Arantxa Sánchez Vicario    6-3, 6-4 
1991     US Open                 Martina Navrátilová        7-6, 6-1
1992     Australian Open         Mary Jo Fernández          6-2, 6-3
1992     French Open             Steffi Graf                6-2, 3-6, 10-8
1992     US Open                 Arantxa Sánchez Vicario    6-3, 6-3
1993     Australian Open         Steffi Graf                4-6, 6-3, 6-2
1996     Australian Open         Anke Huber                 6-4, 6-1

Runner-ups (4)

Year     Championship            Opponent in Final          Score in Final
1992     Wimbledon               Steffi Graf                6-2, 6-1   
1995     US Open                 Steffi Graf                7-6, 0-6, 6-3
1996     US Open                 Steffi Graf                7-5, 6-4
1998     French Open             Arantxa Sánchez Vicario    7-6, 0-6, 6-2

See also

External links

Template:Tennis World Number Ones (women)

bg:Моника Селеш de:Monica Seles fr:Monica Seles it:Monica Seles ja:モニカ・セレシュ nl:Monica Seles no:Monica Seles pl:Monica Seles pt:Monica Seles sr:Моника Селеш sv:Monica Seles