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Monica Seles ( , Serbo-Croatian:Monika Seleš, , born December 2, 1973) is a former World No. 1 professional tennis player and a member of the International Tennis Hall of Famemarker. She was born in Novi Sadmarker, Yugoslaviamarker (now Serbiamarker) to Hungarian parents and became a naturalized United States citizen in 1994. According to published reports in Canadian and Hungarian news media (including two newspapers of record), she also received Hungarian citizenship in June 2007. She won nine Grand Slam singles titles, winning eight of them while a citizen of Yugoslavia and one while a citizen of the United States.

She became the youngest-ever champion at the 1990 French Open at the age of 16. She was the World No. 1 player in the women's game during 1991 and 1992, but in 1993 she was forced out of the sport for more than two years following an on-court attack in which a German spectator stabbed her in the back with a 10-inch-long knife. She enjoyed some success after returning to the tour in 1995, including a Grand Slam singles title at the 1996 Australian Open, but was unable to consistently reproduce her best form. Seles played her last professional match at the 2003 French Open, but her official retirement announcement was not issued until February 2008.

Biography

Early years

Seles began playing tennis at the age of six, coached by her father, Károly Szeles. In 1985 at the age of 11, she won the Orange Bowl tournament in Miamimarker, Floridamarker, and caught the attention of tennis coach Nick Bollettieri. In 1986, the Seles family moved from SFR Yugoslaviamarker to the United States, and Seles enrolled at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academymarker, 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 Houstonmarker in May 1989, where she beat Chris Evert in the final. A month later, Seles reached the semifinals of her first Grand Slam singles tournament at the French Openmarker, where she lost to World No. 1 Steffi Graf, 6–3, 3–6, 6–3. Seles finished her first year on the tour ranked World No. 6.

1990–92

Seles won her first Grand Slam singles title at the 1990 French Open. Facing World No. 1 Steffi Graf in the final, Seles saved four set points in a first set tiebreaker, 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 singles titlist at the age of 16 years, 6 months. She also won the 1990 year-ending Virginia Slims Championships, defeating Gabriela Sabatini in five sets. She finished the year ranked World No. 2.

1991 was the first of two years in which Seles dominated the women's tour. She started out by winning the Australian Openmarker in January, beating Jana Novotná in the final. In March, she replaced 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. Instead of playing at Wimbledonmarker, however, Seles took a six-week break, blaming shin splints. But she was back in time for the US Openmarker, which she won by beating Martina Navratilova in the final to cement her position at the top of the world rankings. She also won the year-ending Virginia Slims Championships, defeating Navratilova in four sets.

1992 was an equally dominant year. Seles successfully defended her titles at the Australian Open, the French Open, and the US Open. She also reached the final at Wimbledon but lost to Graf 6–2, 6–1. Two opponents (including Navratilova in the semifinals) had strongly complained about Seles's grunting.

From January 1991 through February 1993, Seles won 22 titles and reached 33 finals out of the 34 tournaments she played. She compiled a 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.

1993 stabbing

Seles was the top women's player heading into 1993, having won the French Openmarker three consecutive years and both the US Openmarker and Australian Openmarker in consecutive years. In January 1993, Seles defeated Graf in the final of the Australian Open, which to date was her third win in four Grand Slam finals with Graf.

However on April 30 during a quarterfinal match with Magdalena Maleeva in Hamburg in which Seles was leading 6–4, 4–3, Günter Parche, an obsessed fan of Steffi Graf, ran from the middle of the crowd to the edge of the court during a break between games and stabbed Seles with a boning knife between her shoulder blades, to a depth of 1.5 cm (.59 inches). Parche admitted that he stabbed Seles to help Graf regain the No.1 ranking. She was quickly rushed to a hospital. Although her physical injuries took only a few weeks to heal, she did not return to competitive tennis for more than 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 level of security at tour events. Seles vowed never to play tennis in Germany again, criticizing the German legal system. "What people seem to be forgetting is that this man stabbed me intentionally and he did not serve any sort of punishment for it... I would not feel comfortable going back. I don't foresee that happening."

Young Elders, a band from Melbournemarker, Australia sent their song called "Fly Monica Fly" to Seles while she was recuperating from the 1993 stabbing incident. According to her autobiography, the song provided inspiration to her at that time and Seles subsequently met the band (who later changed their name to The Monicas) following her victory at the Australian Open in 1996.

The stabbing incident is also the subject of Dan Bern's 1998 tribute to Seles, Monica. Additionally, Detroit dreampop band Majesty Crush paid tribute with "Seles" from the 1993 album Love-15.

Comeback

Seles returned to the tour in August 1995 and won her first comeback tournament, the Canadian Open, beating Amanda Coetzer in the final 6–0, 6–1. The following month at the US Openmarker, Seles lost the final to Graf 6-7, 6-0, 3-6 after failing to capitalize on a set point in the first set.
In January 1996, Seles won her fourth Australian Openmarker, beating Anke Huber in the final. But this was her last Grand Slam title. Seles struggled to recapture her best form on a consistent basis. Her difficulties were compounded by having to cope with her father and long-term coach Károly being stricken by cancer and eventually dying in 1998. Seles was the 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). She defeated World No. 3 Jana Novotná in three sets and World No. 1 Martina Hingis in straight sets before losing to Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in the three-set final.

While she did not reach another Grand Slam singles final, she did consistently reach the quarterfinal and semifinal stages in those tournaments and was a fixture in the WTA Tour's top 10. In 2002, her last full year on the tour, she finished the year ranked World No. 7 and defeated Venus Williams, Martina Hingis, Jennifer Capriati, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters, and Lindsay Davenport and reached at least the quarterfinals at each Grand Slam tournament.

After becoming a U.S. citizen in 1994, Seles helped the U.S. team win the Fed Cup in 1996, 1999, and 2000. She also won a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

Period of hiatus

In the spring of 2003, Seles sustained a foot injury that sidelined her from the tour before the 2003 French Open. She never again played an official tour match.

In February 2005, Seles played two exhibition matches in New Zealand against Navratilova. Despite losing both matches, she played competitively and announced that she could return to the game early in 2006; however, she did not do so. She played three exhibition matches against Navratilova in 2007. On April 5, she defeated Navratilova in Houston, Texasmarker on clay 7–6 (1), 2–6, 10–1 (tiebreak). On September 14, Seles defeated Navratilova on an indoor court in New Orleans, Louisianamarker 6–2, 6–4. On September 16, she defeated Navratilova on clay in Bucharest, Romaniamarker 3–6, 6–3, 10–7 (tiebreak).

In December 2007, Seles said to the press that Lindsay Davenport's successful return to the tour had inspired her to consider her own limited comeback to play Grand Slam tournaments and the major warm-up events for those tournaments. However, on February 14, 2008, Seles announced her official retirement from professional tennis.

Career assessment

Seles was listed as the 13th greatest player of all time (men and women) by (U.S.) Tennis magazine and was also one of 15 women named by Australian Tennis magazine as the greatest champions of the last 30 years (players were listed chronologically).

Seles's career was affected by the stabbing incident; her trajectory was indicative of continuing future greatness. During the height of her career (1990 French Openmarker through the 1993 Australian Openmarker), she won 8 of the 11 Grand Slam singles tournaments she contested.
Until her loss to Martina Hingis at the 1999 Australian Open, Seles had a perfect record at the event (33–0), which is the longest undefeated streak for this tournament (although Margaret Court won 38 consecutive matches there from 1960 to 1968 after losing a match in 1959). It also marked her first defeat in Australia, having won the Sydney tournament in 1996. Seles was the first female tennis player to win her first six Grand Slam singles finals: 1990 French Openmarker, 1991 Australian Openmarker, 1991 French Open, 1991 US Openmarker, 1992 Australian Open, and 1992 French Open. Seles was also the first female player since Hilde Krahwinkel Sperling in 1937 to win the women's singles title three consecutive years at the French Open. (Chris Evert, however, won the title the four consecutive times she played the tournament: 1974, 1975, 1979, and 1980; in 2007, Justine Henin won her third consecutive French Open singles title.) With eight Grand Slam singles titles before her 20th birthday, Seles holds the record for most Grand Slam singles titles won as a teenager.

Shortly after her retirement, Sports Illustrated writer Jon Wertheim summed up her later career:

Seles was a popular player, winning the inaugural Sanex Hero of the Year award in 2002. This award was voted by fans around the world.

Seles was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Famemarker in 2009.

Humanitarian work

In October 2007, Monica Seles was appointed by the Intergovernmental Institution for the use of Micro-algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition, IIMSAM, as a Goodwill Ambassador and Spokesperson for its Global Sports for Peace and Development Programme Initiative to counter malnutrition and for the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Competing on Dancing with the Stars

On March 25, 2008, Seles and her partner were eliminated from season 6 of the U.S. version of Dancing with the Stars.

Performances

Week # Dance/Song Judges' score Result
Inaba Goodman Tonioli
1 Foxtrot/ "Bubbly" 5 5 5 N/A
2 Mambo/ "My Lovin' " 5 5 5 Eliminated


Autobiography

On April 21, 2009, Seles released her memoir Getting A Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self which chronicles her bout with depression and food addiction after her stabbing, her father's cancer diagnosis and eventual death, her journey back to the game and a life beyond tennis.

Career statistics

Records

  • These records were attained in the Open Era of tennis.
Grand Slam Years Record accomplished Player tied
Australian Openmarker 1991-96 4 wins overall Margaret Court Evonne Goolagong Cawley Steffi Graf Serena Williams
Australian Open 1991-93 3 consecutive wins Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis
French Openmarker 1990-92 3 consecutive wins Justine Henin
French Openmarker 1990 Youngest ever champion Stands alone


See also



References

  1. Monica Seles playing activity WTA Tour website
  2. Seles Sighting: Monica plays Martina in exhibition
  3. Monica Seles defeats Martina Navratilova in exhibition match in Bucharest
  4. Seles Announces Retirement From Professional Tennis
  5. Seles Elected to Hall of Fame ESPN.com, January 15, 2009
  6. IIMSAM, Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations


External links




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