Click here to view all photos from the 2013 The Legends of Landfall Event.
In its third year back after a nine-year hiatus, the Legends of Landfall tennis event was bigger and better than ever.
For the first time, three organizations (The Miracle League of Wilmington, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Eastern North Carolina and the UNC-Wilmington Seahawk Club) will receive proceeds from the event, which has raised more than $60,000 the past two years combined.
The headliner of the event, Monica Seles, was in action Saturday afternoon in a mixed doubles match. Seles teamed with Luke Jensen, who won the French Open doubles title in 1993. They took on Jimmy Arias, who won five ATP tournament titles and reached No. 5 in the world, and six-time Grand Slam doubles champion Rennae Stubbs.
"Being able to lend my face and just what I've done in the past to raise money for something is incredible," Stubbs said. "There's not many people who can say, 'Well, I can just lend my name and my face to something and it means something.' "
Seles had as good a three-year stretch from 1990-1992 as any women's player in the history of the game. As a 16-year-old in 1990, she won 10 tournaments, including a 7-6 (6), 6-4 victory over Steffi Graf in the French Open championship.
"After I won the French Open … it went to a different level," Seles said about her stardom. "If you cut your hair or you say something stupid, it becomes front-page news, where before nobody cares about you, so that took a while to adjust to."
In 1991, Seles won three of the four majors and the year-end Virginia Slims Championships to cement her place atop the world rankings.
Her greatest season was 1992. She is one of only seven women to reach all four Grand Slam finals. She won the Australian Open for the second consecutive year, the French Open for a third straight time and a second U.S. Open in a row.
"As an athlete you kind of know when you are playing some good tennis, and when you are like it's going to be a rough, rough year," Seles said. "I knew that year would be a good one for sure."
Her domination continued in 1993 when she claimed another Australian Open title. Spanning from the French Open in 1990 to the Australian Open in 1993, Seles won eight of 12 Grand Slam titles.
She was in her prime and surely on her way to more titles when she was horrifically stabbed by a fan during a quarterfinal match in Hamburg, Germany, three months after her Australian Open title. Seles had yet to lose a match during the 1993 season.
After the attack, Seles was never the same. She won the 1996 Australian Open, her last of nine Grand Slam titles.
She officially retired in February 2008, and less than a year later she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In 2012, Tennis Channel named Seles as the 19th greatest player of all time, regardless of gender. Last Sunday, Seles received her latest recognition as she was inducted into the Court of Champions at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
Legends of Landfall event to feature Grand Slam champion Monica Seles
The Country Club of Landfall and BB&T bank have teamed up once again to host the Landfall Legends of Tennis event Sept. 13-15 to benefit a number of organizations, including the Miracle League of Wilmington, Make-A-Wish Foundation and the UNCW tennis program.
Country Club of Landfall’s own “Legend,” Charlie Owens is putting together an exciting list of Grand Slam players for the weekend, including: Monica Seles, Jimmy Arias, Will Bull, Bret Garnett, Luke Jensen and Renae Stubbs.
Legends play will include singles, doubles, and mixed doubles over the course of the three-day event to be held at the Sports Center in Landfall.
Seles highlights a list of more than a half-dozen accomplished tennis players that are scheduled to play in the tournament. Since her first professional match at the age of 15, Seles dominated the WTA Tour by winning nine Grand Slam Championships in singles. Her titles include Australian Open (’91,’92,’93, ’96), French Open (’90, ’91, ’92) and U.S. Open (’91, ’92). The American tennis great reached the world number one ranking in 1991 and won more than 50 WTA Tour Titles during her career. Seles was elected to the International Hall of Fame in 2009 and was named the “13th greatest player of all time (men and women)” by (U.S.) Tennis magazine.
Day passes will be sold for each of the three Legends tennis sessions–Friday evening, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday afternoon. Each pass, good for a single session, sells for $20 and provides bleacher seating.
Day passes are available for purchase at either one of two Wilmington BB&T branch banks: College Road and Landfall. Beginning at 4:30 pm on Friday, Sept. 16,, day passes will be available at Landfall Realty, which is located in the Landfall Shopping Center, on the right just before you enter the gate on Drysdale Drive.
Additional group seating is available by purchasing a table for the event.
Click here to view all photos from the 2013 US Open
Monica Seles, two-time US Open Champion and holder of nine Grand Slam titles, was inducted to the US Open Court of Champions on Sunday prior to the women's final between Serena Williams and Viktoria Azeranka.
Friend and former Fed Cup teammate Mary Joe Fernandez led the ceremony in Arthur Ashe Stadium, which included a highlight video of Seles’ illustrious career, the unveiling of Seles’ Court of Champions plaque and the presentation of a Court of Champions ring.
“Not only is she one of the great champions,” said former New York Mayor David Dinkins, who introduced Seles and called her a longtime friend and “one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.”
Seles addressed the crowd, which gave her several standing ovations. She discussed her love of tennis and the great moments she had inside Louis Armstrong Stadium, where she won her two titles.
“There are no fans like the New York fans and I got to experience both sides,” she said with a laugh, citing her matches in New York against Jennifer Capriati and Martina Navritalova, who had the crowd behind them, and her matches against Steffi Graf, when the New York crowd was in her corner.
Seles’ plaque can be found in the US Open Court of Champions, a 9,000-square-foot outdoor pavilion bounded by the South Entry gate and the Arthur Ashe Commemorative Garden and Sculpture.
The plaque reads: "Seles was a powerful personality and a dominant force in women’s tennis in the early 1990s. A two-fisted slugger who knocked out opponents with a dynamic mix of talent and tenacity, she won back-to-back singles titles here in 1991 and 1992, and twice more reached the Flushing final – in 1995 and 1996. Overcoming extraordinary adversity with exceptional grace, Seles proved herself a grand champion – and a paragon of the power of perseverance."
“I love it here at the Open. I still wish I was coming back as a player instead of an honoree,” Seles told the crowd. “I love playing tennis, I love the sport and I know all of you here today feel the same way.”
At U.S. Open, Monica Seles only living in the present
Former great recalls career fondly and refuses to dwell on stabbing that derailed her brilliant career.
Tennis legend Monica Seles will be inducted into the Court of Champions at the National Tennis Center on Sunday. Here she smiles while playing a match with Chris Evert against actors Jason Biggs and Rainn Wilson.
There is no use prompting or prodding Monica Seles. Twenty years after a heinous, unpunished stabbing sabotaged her Hall of Fame career, and 18 years after she lost the U.S. Open final to Steffi Graf after a questionable line call, Seles will not linger over stolen years and pilfered trophies.
"I don't go back," Seles said. "I don't dwell."
This is an exultant time for Seles, 40, who will be inducted Sunday into the Court of Champions at the National Tennis Center. She has immersed herself in the tennis, in the crowds at Flushing Meadows. Seles chatted Thursday with fans at the Time Warner Cable Experience, knocked the ball around, then headed to Ashe Stadium for a fun doubles exhibition with Chris Evert.
This was nothing like it was around here in 1995, when she finally returned to Flushing Meadows and to tennis after a 28-month hiatus that had ended just weeks earlier. The match then on Armstrong with Graf was dripping with drama, layered with psychological torments.
"I did well at a tournament in Toronto, but there's a difference between a one-week and a two-week tournament," Seles said. "This was against Graf, the pinnacle, with everyone watching. I was just so happy to be back and it made me realize how much I missed tennis."
Seles had been stabbed in April of 1993, on a Hamburg court by Gunter Parche, a deranged Graf fan. Seles was ranked No. 1 in the world when it happened, already had captured two Opens and eight majors before the age of 20. Callously, the women on tour initially voted not to freeze Seles' ranking. When she returned to the Open, though, she was extended a co-No. 1 seeding with the introverted, inscrutable Graf.
Seles appeared a bit heavier, a bit slower, than before the stabbing. Now slim and elegant, she admits to having trouble with binge eating at the time. Still, her two-fisted groundstrokes retained the kind of power that could pin any opponent, including Graf, yards behind the baseline.
"There was a lot of tension, so much back story," former player Rennae Stubbs said. "Steffi must have felt a lot of responsibility. She was very quiet, very introverted, but she went to the match with this thing in her brain. Both felt things they wouldn't naturally feel. It was the ultimate competitive environment, and that first set was unbelievable."
Graf won the match, 7-6 (6), 0-6, 6-3, replete with brilliant rallies, clutch shots and one notoriously decisive moment. Serving at setpoint, 6-5, in the first-set tiebreaker, it appeared Seles had ripped the winning ace. She danced toward the changeover seat. Her serve was called out, however, and there was no replay available.
"If they had the challenge back then, she would have won," Martina Navratilova said. "She had that ace on set point. Eventually, she just ran out of steam in the third set. There was so much riding on that match. It went so beyond tennis."
Navratilova remains furious at the whole unsatisfying finish to Seles' brilliant career.
"The guy (Parche) altered the history of the sport," Navratilova said. "It was an awful act that could have been avoided. I mean, you never know what might have happened in a tennis career. She could have been in a car accident. But she could have been the greatest, and she was never the same. She's such a great person. She's got such a good attitude. I still haven't let it go. She has."
Not only has Seles let it go, she even finds a silver lining in the stabbing.
"When I was 15 years old against Chris Evert on Armstrong, I may have had five people rooting for me," she said. "Then after my stabbing, it had the opposite effect and players said they hated playing me because the crowd didn't want to see me lose."
Her favorite memory here, understandably, is not that Graf match. It is her classic, 1991 victory over Jennifer Capriati in a semifinal, a battle of young belters. As a kid, Seles had started hitting those two-fisted forehands because she was "a tiny girl with no kid's rackets." She was thrilled this summer to see Marion Bartoli, another two-fisted player, win Wimbledon.
There were a lot of things to celebrate. She will be honored on Sunday, before the women's final. She was playing Thursday night alongside Evert, who had beaten her here in 1989 at Seles' first U.S. Open.
"I've come full circle," Seles said. "You have to pinch yourself. This is the gravy on it."
Seles/Evert vs Biggs/Wilson U.S. Open Exhibition Match
Celebrity sightings are fairly common at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, but on Thursday night, they'll be on the court rather than in the audience.
Jason Biggs and Rainn Wilson are teaming up for a "battle of the sexes" against former champions Chris Evert and Monica Seles Thursday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The Today show's Al Roker will serve as a chair umpire.
It remains to be seen how the Office and Orange Is the New Black stars' tennis skills will measure up against Seles and Evert, but Wilson at least has an outfit picked out for the event.
"Me & @JasonBiggs will be playing Chris Evert & Monica Seles at the @USOPentomorrow," Wilson tweeted Wednesday. "My shorts will be soooo tight!"
The match, which begins at 7 p.m. ET, will be broadcast live on the Tennis Channel and can also be streamed at www.usopen.org.
The annual Landfall Legends of Tennis event added a few major titles to its marquee on Friday, when it announced that former world No. 1 and nine-time Grand Slam singles champion Monica Seles would become the headline player.
Former American star Lindsay Davenport previously had been announced as the main attraction, but had to withdraw with a scheduling conflict.
The annual event, which raises money for the Miracle League of Wilmington, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Eastern North Carolina and the UNCW Seahawk Club, is scheduled for Sept. 13-15.
Seles won eight of her nine Grand Slam titles between 1990 and 1993. She entered the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009. For reserve a table for all three days or find out daily ticket information, visit LandfallLegends.com.
Tennis Legend Monica Seles Visits Miami for Kids' Tennis Program Checkup
In 2000, the Laureus "Sport for Good" Foundation was created to "help less fortunate people enjoy a better life through the power of sport."
Since its initial project in Kenya, which created disease-free environments for children, Laureus has launched an additional 103 projects worldwide in 34 countries, affecting more than 1.5 million children.
Last year, with a generous $1.3 million donation from Mercedes Benz USA, Laureus launched five new projects in the United States, the "Coach Across America Initiative." It placed 250 trained coaches among underserved neighborhoods in Miami, Chicago, New York, L.A., and New Orleans to kick-start sport-based youth development projects.
These projects aim to lower child obesity rates and youth violence in these cities.
A year after the initiation of the project, Laureus USA and tennis legend Monica Seles were back in the Miami neighborhood of Overtown to check on the progress of the project. So far, the 24 coaches placed in the Miami area have worked with more than 4,000 children, and Seles was eager to meet some of them.
"I started tennis, a very ‘rich’ sport, in a very humble way," she said. "My journey began in a parking lot, where my dad would tie a piece of string between two cars to serve as a net... Tennis has given me everything in my life, and I hope other sports can help these kids as much as it did for me."
The Laureus event was held at the "Touching Miami with Love" (TML) facility, filled with bustling kids, volunteers and teachers. The facility has offered tutoring and afterschool programs for children as well as assistance to Overtown residents since 1995.
Angel Pittman and her husband, Jason Pittman, the executive director of TML, briefed the press about the program.
"We want to fill in the gaps for our community by helping kids and their parents," Angel Pittman said. "We are an afterschool program during the school year, but during extended vacation days from school, we are a full 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. program so parents don’t have to take time off from work. Many of these kids come from families where relatives have died from gang violence... It is really quite saddening. We feel as if it is our duty to help these kids grow up."
One of the Coach Across America coaches, Isaac, is a “graduate” of the TML program who had two of his older brothers shot by gangs in drive-by shootings. Determined not to follow in his brothers’ footsteps, Isaac graduated high school and is attending Miami Dade College while working part-time as a coach.
Seles was shocked when she heard the level of violence and crime that the children at TML were exposed to. "It’s incredible. If I saw these children walking on the side of the street, I wouldn’t be able to tell what they have been through," she said.
The TML children performed several dances during the event to pop music. Then several coaches spoke about the program and the progress made with the children.
"Sports are so important to a child’s growth. It teaches them leadership, determination and teamwork," Isaac said. "Since the beginning of this program, my kids have told me how much they look forward to sports class every week."
Seles to be Inducted Into U.S. Open Court of Champions
The USTA has announced that Monica Seles, a two-time U.S. Open Champion, has been named the 2013 inductee into the U.S. Open Court of Champions, a U.S. Open and USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center attraction honoring the greatest singles champions in the history of the U.S. Championships/U.S. Open. Seles will be inducted during an on-court ceremony in Arthur Ashe Stadium prior to the Women’s Singles Championship on Sunday, Sept. 8. Mary Joe Fernandez will host the ceremony.
The U.S. Open Court of Champions salutes the tournament’s all-time greatest champions with an individual permanent monument that serves as a lasting tribute. Seles will join prior inductees Andre Agassi, Arthur Ashe, Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Jimmy Connors, Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Althea Gibson, Richard “Pancho” Gonzalez, Steffi Graf, Billie Jean King, Jack Kramer, Rod Laver, Ivan Lendl, Molla Bjurstedt Mallory, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Margaret Osborne duPont, Ken Rosewall, Pete Sampras, Bill Tilden and Helen Wills. A panel of international print and broadcast journalists selected the 2013 inductee from the roster of U.S. champions based on their performances at the tournament and their impact on the growth of the event.
“Monica Seles is not only a great champion, but a graceful competitor who inspired us all,” said Dave Haggerty, chairman, CEO and president of the USTA. “Her captivating talent was surpassed only by a dignified courage that remains an inspiration for our sport. She truly deserves to be honored among the greatest of U.S. Open champions.”
Seles is one of the most decorated women’s tennis players of all-time, winning nine Grand Slam singles titles, including back-to-back U.S. Open championships in 1991-1992. She captured eight Grand Slam titles before she turned 20 and is still the youngest woman ever to win the French Open at 16-years-old. Seles was the world number one for 178 non-consecutive weeks, ranking fifth-most in history, and won 53 singles titles on the WTA tour. Born in Yugoslavia, she began representing the United States in 1994, winning Fed Cup titles with the U.S. in 1996, 1999 and 2000 and an Olympic bronze medal in 2000. She officially retired in 2008.
The U.S. Open Court of Champions is a 9,000-square foot outdoor pavilion bounded by the South Entry Gate and the Arthur Ashe Commemorative Garden and Sculpture that celebrates the event’s greatest champions with an individual permanent monument to serve as a lasting tribute. The attraction also features a complete listing of all U.S. singles champions since the competition began in 1881.
Monica Seles and Eugenie Bouchard of Canada kicked off the Rogers Cup with a doubles match against Serena and Venus Williams on Monday.
The Rogers Cup has a special place in Seles career, as it was the first WTA event she played when she made her comeback from the 1993 stabbing incident in Hamburg after 27 months away from the game.
The exhibition match, which the Williams sisters won 8-5 was played out in good spirits, with dance motivator 'Spandy Andy' making an appearance to have a wiggle on court with Venus in Toronto.
Serena has already achieved her stated goal of winning a second French Open title this year but the top-ranked American is still not satisfied with her season despite having more fun than ever on tour.
Six other titles have been won this year by the 31-year-old but compatriot Sloane Stephens upset her in the semi-finals of the Australian Open and Sabine Lisicki stunned her in the fourth round of Wimbledon.
'You know I'm not there yet with the way my year has gone,' she said.
'Everybody is like 'You've had a good year and I'm like, who?''
Williams said she is not satisfied unless she wins every big tournament that she enters, particularly the slams which account for 15 of her 53 career titles - a significant percentage.
'That's me,' she said. 'I work really hard to do the best, especially in grand slams.'
This season, however, her form at non-grand slam events has been dazzling, proof that she is as hungry as ever.
From 2005-2010, seven of Williams 12 titles came at the grand slams. Since the start of 2011 only three of her 16 crowns came at the majors.
'It's more or less evening out, but I am okay just winning grand slams,' she said. 'What makes tennis beautiful is the small tournaments that make you as a player and make you win the grand slams.'
'I was talking to (my sister) Venus the other day and I said I am never going to stop.
'I just love this sport so much and we were just practicing. It's just so fun. I'm having more fun than I have ever had.'
Williams said she was thrilled to see former number one Martina Hingis return to doubles play.
Hingis launched her comeback last week at the Carlsbad Open with her partner Daniela Hantuchova, reaching the second round.
She and Hantuchova will also play in this week's Rogers Cup.
Serena and Hingis - who were once bitter rivals - got to know each other better over the past year and half while Hingis was coaching at the academy owned by Williams' coach, France's Patrick Mouratoglou.
'It's great,' Williams said. 'She's so good and has great hands and sees the ball so well and she's fun.
'It's really kind of cool. I kind of am waiting for her singles comeback, but I'm not sure she will,' added Williams, who will play either Italy's Francesca Schiavone or South Africa's Channelle Scheepers.
Monica Seles to play exhibition doubles against the Williams sisters
Former world no. 1 and nine time grand slam champion Monica Seles will play an exhibition match at the Rogers Cup in Toronto on Monday night.
Seles will partner with young Canadian Eugenie Bouchard and the two will play the Williams sisters in an exhibition doubles match that is scheduled in the evening session on the Centre Court. Bouchard and the Williamses are all entered in the singles draw in Toronoto.
The Rogers Cup has a special place in Seles career. This was the first WTA event she played when she made her comeback from the stabbing incident in Hamburg after 27 months away from the game.
Seles also has a new book out called 'The Academy'.
Some athletes don’t do much after leaving their sport; some go into broadcasting; some immerse themselves entirely into charity. But trying to become the next young-adult fiction sensation is a bit rarer.
Monica Seles, the 39-year-old Serbian-born winner of nine Grand Slam tennis titles and an Olympic bronze medal, has spent the years since her official retirement in 2008 writing, first releasing the 2010 memoir “Getting a Grip.” That book detailed the aftermath of her 1993 stabbing by a Steffi Graf fan as well as her struggles with binge-eating. Her newest tome, “The Academy: Game On,” is a bit lighter, a takeoff on the “Gossip Girl” genre set at a competitive youth tennis academy akin to the one Seles attended in Bradenton, Florida.
Seles describes her fiction as a “fantasy journal,” rewriting a tense and competitive childhood at a tennis-only school into a salacious and fun look at athletes of all stripes (and both genders!) cohabitating in the Florida sun. Calling from a charity event in Miami, Seles talked about her regrets, why her stabbing injury was “unnecessary,” how Serena Williams has changed the game, and figuring out what she’ll spend the rest of her life doing after competitive tennis.
Who approached whom to put this project together? It’s kind of an unusual next step for a tennis player — or for a tell-all memoirist.
I couldn’t agree more. The autobiographies I did are very different, about hard experiences I went through. It was hard to live them again, a really raw feeling. Doing a novel — I’d had this idea three or four years ago, and during rain delays at exhibition games or while traveling by myself, I wrote a lot. It was kind of a fantasy journal. Over the years, I talked with my agent — and I wanted to tell him that I had this great idea, but people always say, “Oh yeah, another great idea, whatever.” It was so unknown to me, and I am so afraid of the unknown. I had lunch with him and said “This could be a great book.” He said, “Really?” I told him I’d done a couple of chapters, told him to see what he thinks, and maybe send it out. It took me a few weeks to get the nerve to send it. Finally, blah blah blah, he saw something in it. The academy is a crazy world and most people don’t get to see it. And I saw it from all sides — I have friends who are now parents sending their kids there. We shopped the book around and I was very excited when publishers showed interest. I was over the moon.
To what degree were you reliving — or re-imagining — your experiences with this book?
I see myself a little bit in the character of Maya, the kid outsider who comes to the academy. It’s a very different world — not much social interaction, you’re thrown into this environment that’s sink or swim. I definitely felt that as a kid when I won a scholarship to an academy. You wake up worried your scholarship will be taken away — the same as it is for Maya. When I was at the camp, I didn’t have such a social life even as Maya. When I was there, it was only tennis. I could never have had the friendship Maya and Cleo had — it was so cutthroat. That’s what I didn’t like about my childhood. In my fantasy world, I wanted to change it and have Maya have another athlete with similar issues she has, but be in a different sport and serve as a sounding board. It’s a totally different environment that’s very competitive and people will use anything against you, because very few people are going to succeed.
Would you advise parents to send their children to an athletic academy — or advise children to go there?
The academy is a very individual choice. Some days, I loved it; some I hated it; some days I was just ambivalent. If you want the sport of your choice to be a career, to live, eat, breathe sport — it’s the right place for you. Nowadays, academies are much bigger places — it’s gone from 70 people when I was there to about 400. It’s a much more luxurious area down there and more thought has been given to the psychology of athletes, and building a person, not just building a champion. I’m very thankful I went — the competitive environment in my sport got me ready for professional tennis which is much more cutthroat.
Has it been challenging for you to enter adult life after the end of your competitive career?
Oh, yeah. I think it’s a very complicated challenge, in a way. It’s an easier challenge because, financially, you don’t have the same challenges as my friends who went to college who are still paying off loans, as they always remind me. If you work from 14 to 32 or so, you get to decide what you like to do and what you’re really good at. The focus is so much on tennis — yes, you did school, but when you turn pro at 15, it’s not the same level of focus.
For me, it’s been trying to learn more about what I like and what I don’t, not being afraid of it. Doing this novel was a personal breakthrough. Talking to my agent was a baby step. It’s at that point when I’m still discovering what I enjoy. And I’ll never be as good at anything else as I am at tennis. You only have so much time to master things. Even though I started out playing tennis, I never imagined I’d have so many career highs and lows.
Given that writing is more challenging for you than tennis, did you get much out of it?
I think it’s a lot of fun. I had my co-writer, James [LaRosa], who has written a lot for the Tennis Channel. Working with someone who’s connected to tennis — there were so many common things, and it was such a fun process writing it. It didn’t feel like a job, like, “Oh no, we have this deadline”; it was a very enjoyable process. Getting involved with the art, the cover, things like that. I wish it was more sexy, but it’s for young adults, and we only want to push it so far.
Do you have any regrets about your career?
I don’t believe in regret. In 1993, what happened, I think it was unnecessary to go through that at 1993. I wish my dad was around for more of my career; he missed that second stage of my career. I was so lucky I got to do a sport I love. When you lose a match, it’s a tough loss and you’re down on yourself. But with the extreme happiness in your day-to-day life, it’s hard to compare to anything, and I struggle with that. When you have that trophy in your hand, all the complaining is worth it. When you’re crying in your hotel room, alone, over one or two close points — you’re able to put it into perspective.
What do you make of the women’s tennis scene these days? The Williams sisters have made it such a power game.
At the last few years of my career, I experienced their power. To me, Serena is still the most powerful player, that hasn’t changed. In the game, besides Serena and [Maria] Sharapova, with all the other players, there’s a lot of inconsistency. That’s good for the sport. Marion Bartoli winning Wimbledon was totally unexpected, and brought fresh blood in. Now we’re looking for the next generation. As a fan, after Serena retires, you wonder, is somebody able to surpass that? What will that player look like? Or will the game stagnate as we wait for the next superstar?
Is the book going to be a series?
I’m definitely doing a second book. How far after that, I obviously have no idea. I hope I have the opportunity to do more. A company bought the TV rights to it, we’ll see if that goes anywhere. It’s something very new, and I’m a kid in a candy store.
If you're a fan of Gossip Girl, the odd love triangle and a whole LOAD of teen drama - then you might want to check out the latest book from former tennis champion turned bestselling author Monica Seles.
The Academy: Game On, is the first in a new series of books based around Maya, a teenage girl whose dream of becoming a pro tennis player comes one step closer, after she lands a scholarship at The Academy - a prestigious sports complex.
However, all is not as it seems - because as well as dealing with rich kids who aren't too keen on a penniless upstart outshing them, Maya also finds herself distracted by not just one, but TWO very attractive guys...
We caught up with tennis legend and author Monica Seles to get all the gossip on her latest book, inlcuding exactly who she can imagine playing the oh-so-gorgeous Travis and Jake in a film adaptation.
So, 'The Academy: Game On' is about a prestigious sports academy, like the kind you attended when you were younger - is the book based on your real life experiences?
Oh I wish it was - Maya's life is far more exciting though! Parts of it are, obviously, but I wish I had as much fun as Maya has in her academy [laughs]. The academies I attended were 110% tennis, there were no boys there was no outside socialization - it was hitting that furry little yellow ball 6-7 hours a day, that was it.
Is it as cut-throat and competitive as the book makes out?
Oh yes. It was pretty cut-throat even back then, when there's wasn't the same sponsorship deals to fight over - because there’s always jealousy. Being a teenager away from home like that, we were all kind of thrown into this environment where we had to sink or swim. I was staying in the academy 24/7 with people from all different countries and cultures - it could get pretty intense.
There are so many different aspects in the book - high school drama, tiffs with friends, and even a love triangle, was it fun to write?
Oh I really enjoyed it. I've been jotting down ideas for ages, in between matches, when I'm on a plane or whatever - and then a couple years ago I told to my agent: 'I've got something, let's try' - because I'm a big believer that if something doesn't work, hey at least I know I gave it a go. We wanted to give a little insight into the academy - and I think anybody that likes sports or follows sports will really enjoy reading it.
The book has a bit of Gossip Girl aspect to it, with the rich kids, privileged lifestyle and scheming - are you a fan of the show?
Oh a massive fan. I always loved the books and when the TV series came out I was addicted to that too. Growing up on the Upper East side of New York is just so different to growing up anywhere else, in that tight radius of blocks, with all that money and all the drama that comes with it
In reality is there a divide between the scholarship kids and those with money - Maya has a lot of trouble with that in the book, after all...
Oh definitely. I mean you have parts of the academy where the scholarship kids live and work, then you have parts where there's a Mercedes and a Ferrari parked outside the expensive living quarters. That part we see Maya experience, and that does actually happen.
Maya has quite a lot of guy trouble too - was there all that kind of love triangle drama going on when you were at an Academy?
It’s different because there were very few girls at the academy I attended - sport just wasn’t as popular for young ladies. It's very different now, sport has empowered young girls and they're much more likely to want to pursue a career in tennis or whatever. But of course, there were still relationship issues and drama - although not quite to the extent that Maya has to deal with!
If it was made into a film, what actresses or actors could you see playing the main characters?
Oh boy. I mean, jeez in my ideal world? I've always liked Jennifer Lawrence, so I guess I would put her as Maya - she's got that feisty streak. As for one of her love interests, Travis - I can see that younger guy from Twilight playing him... Taylor Lautner.
OOH, good choice. Talking about the love triangle in the book, is that going to develop in the next book?Can you give a little hint about what to expect?
Yeah I think we’re going to be playing a little more on that - because there’s so many conflicts in there. Maya has got a taste of the glamourous life that, coming from a small town in New York, she's never experienced before - and that's changed her too. She realises that as well as playing tennis, you have to play the game - and so we'll see her being a lot more savvy in the next book.
Are we going to see more of Diego [a THIRD hottie who appears towards the end of Game On] as well?
Yes, that is the goal. He’s one of the most fun characters. He’s one of those characters that when he takes his shirt off the girls go crazy and just nuts. The world is his oyster. He'll be a ladies man too - obviously!
Finally, which book character would you most like to run off into the sunset with?
From any book? Well I always loved the Gossip Girl books, even before they were made into a TV series in the US. So maybe one of the guys from that!
Former Number Ones Glam Up for WTA 40 Love Celebration in London
Current and former WTA world No. 1s gathered together on Sunday in London to celebrate "40 Love" - the 40th anniversary of the WTA, founded by trailblazer Billie Jean King.
The WTA and its leaders have strived to bring equality, recognition and respect to the tour over the years. The organization is now the global leader in women’s professional sport, and proudly counts many pioneering accomplishments, including the successful campaign for equal prize money.
Seventeen of the 21 WTA No. 1s were in attendance, including three of the original nine, displaying elegance and beauty. Can you name each one in the photo below?
Emcees Pam Shriver and Mary Carillo introduced each of the No. 1s in style, referencing the "sassy sour" Maria Sharapova to the ever elegant Monica Seles. Each lady then had the chance with the mic, and afterward, it was time to mingle and celebrate.
Jim Courier and Monica Seles played tennis in a Manhattan intersection
NEW YORK – London isn’t the only metropolis with big-time grass tennis courts this week.
Hundreds on onlookers stopped to stare as former pros Jim Courier and Monica Seles volleyed on a temporary court constructed in the small sliver between Broadway and Fifth Avenue in the shadow of New York City’s famed Flatiron Building. The court, which will be open through Thursday, is available on a first-come, first-serve basis for singles players as part of the “HSBC Serves Up the Perfect Day at Wimbledon” event.
Fans who don’t get on the court are able to watch live action from the All England Club, where Seles reached the women’s singles final at Wimbledon in 1992, followed by Courier in the men’s in 1993.
“It was a year that it didn’t rain much. It played like a hard court so I was able to play more my style.” Courier told For The Win. “I’m not a natural serve and volley-er, which 20 years ago you needed to be. The surface has changed since then. It was very much a low bouncing, aggressive favoring surface. Now players can play from the baseline and be successful and net rushers struggle. I needed good conditions to play well. I needed to make more adjustments for that surface than any other I played in.”
Courier also discussed two-time champion Rafael Nadal’s surprising first-round loss to Steve Darcis, with Courier wondering how much Nadal’s knee issues factored into the performance.
“I don't think his game is in decline whatsoever,” Courier said. “What he did since his comeback has proven that. He played nine tournaments prior to Wimbledon and was in nine finals and won seven of those including the French. He's going to have to schedule appropriately for what his body can take, which means playing less and being more selective and trusting himself that he doesn't have to play as many tournaments to be in great shape.”
Seles, who now plays tennis frequently for recreation, doesn’t see any similarly high-profile upsets happening on the women’s side.
“I think the bottom half you have a Sharapova-Azarenka semi but you also have Kvitova and you can't forget she won Wimbledon a few years back,” Seles said. “She's a tough lefty player and on grass lefties have a little bit of advantage. There's not too many floaters in the draw where you can say I'm looking forward to this third round match. Then again it's Wimbledon.”
Moscow, Russia - Tennis Legends Doubles Exhibition Match: Dementieva/Myskina vs. Hingis/Seles on June 16, 2013.
Venus, Serena Williams to face Monica Seles in exhibition
TORONTO (AP) - Serena and Venus Williams will kick off the Rogers Cup with a doubles exhibition against Monica Seles and Eugenie Bouchard of Canada.
The match will be played on Centre Court at Rexall Centre on Aug. 5 on the opening night of the weeklong WTA tournament.
Seles will be returning to Toronto for the first time since being inducted into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame in 2009. Bouchard was the 2012 Wimbledon juniors singles champion and recently cracked the top 70 in the rankings.
Serena Williams is coming off her French Open title. She says she's looking forward to a "really fun match'' with Seles and "hopefully another successful week at Rogers Cup.''
Seles made her winning comeback at the 1995 Rogers Cup following a two-year absence from the sport after being stabbed by a deranged fan.
'Joy of writing' helps Monica Seles move on from past trauma
(CNN) -- She spent her teenage years ruling the tennis world, and now Monica Seles is hoping her world of tennis can rule today's teenagers.
From becoming the youngest grand slam champion to having her career shattered by a traumatic stabbing attack, then battling related weight problems before losing her father and coach to cancer, the 39-year-old has plenty of life experience to draw on for her latest project.
"I am old enough now to know that life throws different curveballs and it's about how you handle them," she told CNN's World Sport.
"I try to handle them as best I can."
Long retired from the top level, the former world No. 1 has followed up her autobiography by co-authoring a fictional book on life at a tennis academy.
The main character of "The Academy: Game On" gained her entry to an elite tennis school by virtue of a scholarship, just as the eventual winner of nine grand slams did herself as a 12-year-old.
Five years of training at Nick Bollettieri's famous academy in Florida turned the slender young Seles into the 1990 French Open champion at the tender age of 16 years and six months, and at 17 she became the youngest No. 1.
Those records have since been broken by Martina Hingis but the fact remains that Seles -- who then represented Yugoslavia but who has since taken American citizenship -- was a prodigy whose equal the world had never seen before.
Still the youngest winner at Roland Garros, she added the Australian and U.S. Open titles to her CV in 1991 -- and is now in no doubt as to what drove her to the top.
"I had an absolutely great time co-writing the book (with James LaRosa)," Seles said.
"The main character, Maya, had a way to get into the academies, which is the same way I did -- on a scholarship. And as I always said in the book, there are two ways to get into an academy -- money or talent -- but at the end of the day talent always wins."
There can be no doubt that her ability, coupled with a fierce mental dedication, propelled Seles to the very top but her career was tragically derailed in circumstances that were unimaginable until they actually happened.
A little over 20 years ago -- on April 30, 1993 -- Seles was playing a routine match in Hamburg when a deranged fan leaped over the advertising hoardings and plunged a knife into her back as she sat on her chair during a changeover.
It soon emerged that the German assailant, one Gunter Parche, was a devoted fan of former world No. 1 Steffi Graf who carried out the attack in a bid to return his compatriot to the top of the rankings -- which did come to pass, but clearly for the very worst of reasons.
The knife sunk one and a half inches into Seles' upper left back, and though the wounds took a few months to heal the psychological impact left far deeper scars -- as the former teenage prodigy readily admits.
It would be over two years before Seles returned to the tour but with her father Karoly, who was also her coach, suffering from a cancer that would eventually take his life in 1998, the youngster's weight ballooned as she sought solace for her troubles in binge eating.
She was never the same player again -- and her 2009 autobiography "Getting a Grip" gives a fascinating into the knock-on effects of Pache's attack.
"According to a psychiatric evaluation ... he stated that I was not 'pretty. Women shouldn't be as thin as a bone,' " she wrote after her retirement, which came five years after her last official tour match.
"I wonder now just how much his words haunted my recovery. An integral part of my rehab revolved around cardio sessions. But I started finding excuses for avoiding the treadmill.
"Darkness had descended into my head. No matter how many ways I analyzed my situation, I couldn't find a bright side.
"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.
"I still don't know why my anguish found solace in food. Maybe I was subconsciously 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."
Returning to the sport in August 1995, Seles would go on to win another grand slam -- the Australian Open in 1996 -- but even that glory was tainted.
Having gone from a size eight to 18, her ballooning weight prompted such self-consciousness that she wanted to be out of the limelight as soon as possible, spending the awards ceremony in Melbourne "thinking about getting off the court and hiding in my tracksuit."
It was to be Seles' last major title and the eating disorder sparked by Parche's savage attack continued to plague her until she played her last competitive match in 2003, as the girl who once had the world at her fingertips slipped into the shadows.
"To be thrown into the limelight at the age of 16, being No. 1 in the world and yet struggling to be a teenager is not an easy thing," she told CNN.
"Then at 19, to get stabbed and have my career stopped for two and a half years, decide to come back and then lose my coach/best friend/dad, I've had a lot of lows and highs -- but at the end of the day that is what life is about.
"And it's just really about living in the present."
Which is what Seles has been doing, having appeared in the popular "Dancing with the Stars" TV program in 2008 and now hoping to continue her career as a novelist with sequels planned to follow the publication of "The Academy: Game On."
Fittingly, given the subject matter of her book, her writing began on the tennis circuit as she sought an escape from the monotony of endless traveling to tournaments.
"On the downtime during rain delays and traveling, I wrote a lot," she said. "In tennis, everything is about hitting that yellow ball and being really focused on it -- but writing 'Game On' was just so much fun as I got to use my imagination.
"To finally see it come alive has been a great joy for me."
Monica Seles brings the drama of the court to 'The Academy: Game On'
Tennis legend Monica Seles unveils her first foray into Young Adult fiction with "The Academy: Game On," detailing all the passion and ambition of a young tennis star struggling to make her mark. Here's an excerpt.
Even though the bus smelled like Pringles and gym socks, it was the single greatest ride of Maya's life. Sure, she was the pillow for an old woman for most of the last twenty-three hours (Maya had swoon she was dead around Richmond), but she was finally here. She was here! And as she stepped off the bus and stood at the gates that opened to her final destination, the feeling that nearly knocked her out of her sneaks could be summed up in a single word: run.
Run? Was she insane? Everything she'd ever wanted—everything she'd worked so hard for—was on the other side of these gates. Maya couldn't count the number of birthday candles, wishing-well coins, and wishbones that we sacrificed so that she could be standing on this very spot at this very moment. Nerves is all this was. And who would blame her? Beyond these gates, her life was about to change forever.
Maya had arrived at the Academy.
The Academy was, without question, the greatest sports training facility in the world. It was responsible for more Olympic gold medalists, Hall of Farmers, and number-one-ranked professional athletes than anywhere else on earth. The place was a factory, and its lone product was champions. Maya's dream was to be one of them.
Even with all the competing Maya had done in her life, her hardest fight had been getting into the Academy. There were only two ways in: an obscene amount of talent or an obscene amount of cash. And even then, admission wasn't a guarantee. There was a waiting list to get on the waiting list. Because Maya's family was more or less broke, her only hope had been to earn a scholarship.
The first year she tried out for one, the rejection was a disappointment. The second year, she cried in front of the recruiter. The third year, she didn't come out of her room for a week. On the fourth try, she was so used to the official rejection that she started mouthing the words as the recruiter spoke. Maya was blone away when he'd actually started saying something different. Finally she had done it. This sixteen-year-old have-not from central New York with absolutely no connections whatsoever had somehow made it into the most exclusive club. To this moment she still thought it might be a giant practical joke.
As tough as it was to get in, it had been almost as tough for Maya to leave home. She wasn't one of those kids who hated their parents. Her mother and father didn't know the first thing about tennis, but they supported her 100 percent. They didn't have much money, but whatever they had they invested in her. In her dream. She never felt the need to rebel. What was there to rebel against? So the scene at the station, when she'd loaded her last suitcase under the bus, had been a hot mess.
There were tears, hugs, and fistfuls of cash and coins shoved into her pockets like she was a Thanksgiving turkey. Her mother made her promise to call her every day, any time she got injured, and the second she even thought she might be coming down with something. Her father warned her about guys and threatened to beat up anyone who hurt his baby, which was ludicrous since (a) Maya had never so much as brought a guy home and (b) the only thing her father fought was the battle of the bulge.
"Name?" The guard stared down at her from his post at the gates.
"Hart, Maya Hart." Was she screaming? She felt like she was screaming. She watched the guard enter her name into the system. With his pencil-thin mustache and his uniform starched to tortured perfection, he resembled a cop more than campus security. After what felt like an eternity, his printer started to whir. It wasn't a practical joke after all—she was in the system. He handed her a pass.
"Take this to Admissions. Welcome to the Academy, Maya Hart." He opened the gates. Maya swallowed hard. She grabbed her bags, took a deep breath…and walked inside.
Maya stood in the main office with a welcome packet that practically weighed more than she did. The sheer number of things she had to sign off on receiving before getting her dorm key was staggering. Maps, class schedules, rules, regulations, safety precautions, emergency contact numbers, codes of conduct, nondisclosure agreements…(Maya didn't even know what a nondisclosure agreement was, but she'd sign anything to get that key.) Finally, it was placed in her hand. As she looked down at it, this key she had dreamed about since she was in single digits, she knew she wouldn't hesitate to bite the fingers off anyone who tried to take it from her.
But she wasn't fast enough.
"Hey!" Maya turned, ready to take action. Her eyes went wide. Staring her dead in the face was none other than three-time Super Bowl MVP Nails Reed. Nails was a quarterback and a living legend—six foot four, square-jawed, and an idol to millions (including Maya's father). But he was most important to her as the owner of the Academy. He made the final decisions on who came. And who went.
"Watson, twenty-six, huh?" he said, reading her key. "You're the new girl. Persistent, from what I hear."
"Maya Hart," she said. Was she supposed to gush over him? Act nonchalant? Compliment his hair? The most famous person she'd met before him was the guy who played the grapes in the Fruit of the Loom commercials. Truth be told, that was probably the great day of her life until now.
"Your folks parking the car?" By his tone it was clear that most kids didn't arrive solo.
"They couldn't get off work." For the first time, Maya was relieved about that. Her dad would've been riding Nails piggy-back up and down the hallway and regurgitating stats even Nails himself didn't know.
Nails looked around her. "Where's the rest of your stuff?"
"This is it," she replied. She had two suitcases and a tennis bag, which she'd felt fully confident with until this very moment. She waited for him to say something that would make her feel better about it.
"Follow me." Okay, maybe not. He walked on. Maya didn't hesitate. She grabbed her stuff and, like a shot, took off after him.
He held the rear door of the Admissions building open. Sunlight flooded in. If Maya's mind wasn't blown before, it was definitely blown now. Like Dorothy Gale from Kansas, she stepped out from black and white into color. She was in Oz.
And by the looks of it, Oz didn't come cheap.
The Academy wasn't a sweat-stained training ground; it was a resort. Office buildings were bungalows, and dorms were million-dollar villas with Mercedes and BMWs lined up out front, pristine and sparkling clean as if driven here directly off the lot. The pool to her right came complete with cabanas and an attendant. Up ahead, there were a cluster of stones, from Hermes and Versace to Prada and Manolo Blahnik, with an Aveda spa sandwiched in between.
Trees and lanterns lined every pathway. Fountains and flowers dotted every lawn. It made the Garden of Eden look like a weed- infested parking lot, which, coincidentally, was
the view from Maya's bedroom window back home. Throughout was the most impressive sight of all: half- dressed, hard-bodied guys and girls soaking up the sun, modeling their six-hundred-dollar Chanel shades and designer swimsuits, and strutting around like the glorious, God- gifted peacocks they were. All Maya could think was, Sports happen here?
"We want the Academy to be your world," Nails said. "So we've made sure everything you could possibly want or need is right here on this campus."
"How about a trust fund?" Maya said with a laugh.
Nails didn't offer so much as a smile. "When you're good, that's not a problem for long." She couldn't tell if it was an endorsement or a warning. She didn't remember Nails being this serious in his Slim Jim commercial.
They continued their tour. He told her about the amenities, the on- campus high school, the facilities, the famous athletes whose sweat was soaked into every square inch of the place. The fifty- two tennis courts, the two golf courses, the Olympic- sized swimming pool, the basketball courts . . .Around every corner was something new to take her breath away. A 24- karat baseball diamond, a state- of- the- art track field. Even the building used for classes made Maya actually want to go. They approached a football field that was so meticulously manicured that it looked fake. On it was one serious pickup game. Maya spotted someone watching the game from the stands. Someone familiar.
"Wait," Maya said, looking at him. "Isn't that . . . ?" She sharpened her focus. "It is! That's what's-his- name from that disaster movie, the one where the guy has twenty-four hours to stop the moon from crashing into the earth! Does he have a kid who goes here?"
"Celebrities come here all the time," Nails said, unimpressed. "Hollywood is where people go to gawk at stars. The Academy is where stars come to do their gawking. They're
either here to see our alums who keep this place as their home base or they're coming to see what superstars are around the corner. You better get used to it, fast."
Maya nodded emphatically. But she had no idea how anyone could ever get used to that. Why would you even want to?
Nails flagged down one of the guys on the field. The quarterback. Everyone stopped midplay so the kid could run over to them. As he got closer, Maya froze. Broad- shouldered, clean-cut, dimples for days. He was without a doubt the most beautiful specimen of man she'd ever seen.
"My son Travis," Nails said as he was nearly to them. Of course, Maya thought. In addition to being physically flawless,he had to be filthy rich, too. Maya suddenly became acutely aware that she'd spent the last day on a bus marinating in other people's funk.
"Travis, you're not stepping into your throw enough," Nails told him when he'd reached them. "You should be sixty percent on your front foot when you're releasing the ball."
"Like this?" Travis asked. He tried to work out the motion, but his father had to step in and adjust his weight for him. Travis was more than happy for the correction. It was clear by the reverence he had for his father that Travis wasn't an unwilling Mini- Me. As they continued to perfect the motion, Maya couldn't help but think she would've ventured off the tennis court more often if she knew guys like Travis Reed roamed the earth. As it was, she had no idea what to say or how to react if he ever looked her way.
Suddenly, he was looking her way.
God, he was beautiful. And she was frozen. She had no idea how long it was before he ran back to his game. A moment? An hour? It was just a brief, polite smile, but it was enough to make Maya swoon out of her socks. If only . . .
"You coming or not?" Nails was waiting for her to continue their walk. Oh, God, she thought, how long had she been staring? Did he notice? She bolted from her spot to catch up.
After a few more sights that Maya couldn't even concentrate on, they wound up at a strange place. It was almost like they'd crossed some imaginary border. The buildings were
somewhat less impressive, the surroundings not quite as pretty as a postcard.
"Watson Hall, this is your stop." Nails motioned to her new home.
"Where's the Hermès store?" Maya asked. She always joked when she was nervous. By the blank expression looking back at her, she knew Nails was not one to be joked with.
"Thank you so much," she said, eager to move on. "My father will flip when I tell him I got my tour of the campus from the Nails Reed."
"Tour?" Nails asked. "I don't give tours. This was just on the way to a meeting. Ms. Hart, this campus is six hundred acres. It's up to you to figure it out."
"Oh," she said. Her VIP tour suddenly felt a lot less VIP.
"Um, before you go, I just wanted to say . . . being here is . . .being here is an absolute dream come true. People say that, but . . . for me, it is. And I won't take a second of it— not a single second— for granted. And I am per sis tent. I want to be the number- one player in the world, and I'm going to get there." She wasn't usually so direct, but she was being genuine. It felt right. And she felt powerful saying it.
Nails was as unmoved by her statement as he was by the movie star they'd passed earlier. "Everyone wants to be number one here," he said. "Everyone's a phenom. That's why our scholarships are provisional. You have six months to prove you not only want to be a star, but also that you have the goods to pull it off. Six months, or you're out. Have a nice day." With that, he was gone.
As Maya stood there alone, the fear that overwhelmed her outside the gates returned. It pounded her like a wave. But this time, she understood it. After fighting like a dog to get in, after busing down the entire eastern seaboard to get here, that urge to run was really the intense and all- too- familiar feeling that she didn't belong. That Maya might quite possibly be in way over her head.
Martina Navratilova tells espnW that had former No. 1 Monica Seles not been stabbed in April 1993 by Guenther Parche, a crazed Steffi Graf fan, she may have become the best player ever. After Seles returned to the tour in August 1995 she only won one more major, the 1996 Australian Open, and ended her career with nine major titles.
“She would have won so much more,” said Navratilova, who owns 18 Grand Slam singles titles. “We’d be talking about Monica with the most Grand Slam titles [ahead of] Margaret Court (who has 24) or Steffi Graf. Steffi had 22 but she didn’t have anyone to play against. This guy changed the course of tennis history, no doubt about that.”
Seles’ close friend and former rival Mary Joe Fernandez added:
“People forget if you look at [Seles’] record, she has nine Grand Slams, which is an amazing career. But she would have had double that at least. . . . She took our game to another level.”
Former top player Pam Shriver added that the incident must have been a huge burden for Graf to carry. But Navratilova isn’t so sure.
“I’m sure it shook [Graf] up, but she won a lot more than she would have otherwise,” Navratilova said. “If it affected her that deeply, she would have forged a stronger bond with Monica instead of ignoring her. It was nice initially [for Graf to see Seles in the hospital], but after that?”
Graf has claimed in the past that Seles refused to take her phone calls after the hospital visit.
Before an unemployed sicko changed tennis history and got away with it; before he walked down through the stands in Hamburg, Germany, and past a crowd distracted by a changeover; before he leaned over a 3-foot barrier and plunged a 9-inch knife between her shoulders, Monica Seles was not only the best women's tennis player in the world. She was also the toughest.
No one knew from where the toughness sprung except Seles herself; she once explained that she so dearly loved the game from such a young age that it never occurred to her to be nervous, or care about who was winning, or even understand how to keep score.
"Mentally she was just so tough, she was right up there with Chris [Evert]," Martina Navratilova said of Seles in a recent phone interview. "You couldn't crack her, you never got the feeling she was panicked or pissed off. Nothing. You could not read her body language. Up 6-4, 4-0 or down 6-4, 4-0, she was immaculate, and she lost a little bit of that, not hardness, but supreme confidence. … She lost her edge."
Monica Seles lost a lot more than that.
Once a legitimate threat to break Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles; once a source of constant frustration to Steffi Graf, who is No. 2 with 22 Slam wins; once one of the toughest competitors in all of sports, Seles didn't just have her career altered on that awful day 20 years ago. It was stolen from her.
"I can't say whatever was meant to be, was meant to be," Seles told me in a 2004 interview with the Chicago Tribune. "When I look back, I'm sure my career, in terms of achievement, would've been different if I hadn't been stabbed, and I'll always wonder why I'm the only one in history who that ever happened to.
"But that was the course my life took, it was beyond my control, and I have to let it go. I don't want to think what could have been, what would have been."
And so, short of a few pages in her 2009 book "Getting a Grip," in which she wrote about the attack, she has slowly stopped talking about it altogether. And a publicist promoting her upcoming book, part of a teen series Seles has written for Bloomsbury Children's Publishing, politely turned down an interview on behalf of Seles because of the subject matter.
You can hardly blame her.
Ahead of her time
Turning 40 this year -- a hard fact to absorb for those of us who remember her so well at 15, the year she turned pro, and at 16, when she won her first Grand Slam title -- Seles was always ahead of her time.
Possessing the most recognized and successful double-fisted forehand in tennis, along with a top-flight two-handed backhand, she was also the original grunter -- though tame by today's standards. But that was how Seles used to be defined before becoming the only known professional athlete to be stabbed in the arena of play.
"The most shocking events in my 35 years-plus of playing tennis was the day Vitas Gerulaitis died; the day it came out that Arthur Ashe was HIV positive and the day he died; and the day Monica was stabbed," said longtime pro and Seles opponent Pam Shriver, an ESPN analyst. "Those were all days where I very clearly remember where I was. ... What happened to Monica was almost unthinkable."
On April 30, 1993, Seles was playing in the quarterfinals of the Citizen Cup, a tour event in Germany, on an otherwise perfect day. After winning the previous four games, Seles was leading Magdalena Maleeva 6-4, 4-3 and seemingly poised to close out the match.
At 19, Seles was the top-ranked player in the world and in the prime of her career. She had reached the finals in 33 of 34 tournaments from January 1991 to February 1993, winning 22 singles titles. More astounding? She had won eight Grand Slam tournaments from 1990 to that point, with a match record of 55-1 in Slams.
At 23, Graf had won 10 Grand Slam titles by April 1993, and until '91 had had a four-year stranglehold on the No. 1 ranking. But in '91 and '92, Seles had surged ahead, and she defeated Graf in a dramatic three-setter in the '93 Australian Open final, three months before Hamburg.
With Evert having retired and Navratilova nearing the end of her career, Seles and Graf had clearly separated themselves from the rest of the pack and were primed, it seemed, to develop a rivalry on the level of Navratilova-Evert, Jimmy Connors-John McEnroe and Pete Sampras-Andre Agassi.
Gunter Parche, an out-of-work, 38-year-old German factory worker obsessed with the German-born Graf, would have stabbed Seles a second time that day in Hamburg but was wrestled away by fans and officials before he could inflict further damage. His motive? Parche admitted he wanted to keep Seles from playing at a high level so Graf would be No. 1.
At first, many in the crowd were unaware of what had occurred. Seles gave out a yelp as the blade plunged a full inch and a half into her upper back, but she stayed on her feet for several seconds before slumping, with the help of officials, to the court.
"I remember sitting there, toweling off, and then I leaned forward to take a sip of water, our time was almost up and my mouth was dry. The cup had barely touched my lips when I felt a horrible pain in my back," Seles wrote in her book.
"My head whipped around towards where it hurt and I saw a man wearing a baseball cap, a sneer across his face. 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."
Physically, Seles was incredibly lucky, as the knife barely missed her lungs, spinal cord and other major organs. Miraculously, she needed only a few stitches to close the wound and a short hospital stay. But the pain, she said, remained for months. And the torment?
Depression in aftermath
In her book, Seles said she spiraled into a deep depression that manifested itself in an overeating disorder she had never before experienced.
Describing her attempts at rehab, Seles wrote, "Even 10 minutes of walking was torture. I just didn't want to do it. What was wrong with me? There was a problem that no CAT scan or MRI readout could diagnose. Darkness had descended into my head. No matter how many ways I analyzed the situation, I couldn't find a bright side."
Seles would end up being out of tennis for nearly 28 months. During that period, the WTA, the governing body of women's tennis, consulted with its top 25 players and refused to freeze her ranking points.
"As I remember it, in the short history of the rankings to that point, they had never been manipulated to freeze anybody's or take someone off," Shriver, then-president of the WTA Players Association, said by phone. "They were what they were. But this was a precedent-setting event and we needed to have some different thinking and consider new options."
Graf went on to win the next four Grand Slam tournaments -- the '93 French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open and the '94 Australian Open -- and also agreed to an endorsement deal Seles said she was close to signing before the attack and regained the No. 1 ranking five weeks after the stabbing.
Fall from glory
Seles would never be No. 1 again.
"She had won seven of eight Grand Slams [from '91 to '93] and was on her way to doing even greater things," recalled Mary Joe Fernandez, a 15-year veteran of the tour, ESPN analyst and Seles' closest friend to this day. "She was robbed. It was one of the most tragic things to happen in all of sports."
"She was dominating Steffi Graf, who, prior to Seles, dominated everyone else," Shriver said. "The sad thing about the whole thing to me was that besides the physical and emotional harm that was done to Monica, one of our great champions, is that this guy, in the end, got exactly what he wanted."
Further hindering Seles' recovery was her beloved father Karolj's cancer diagnosis (the disease led to his death in May of '98) shortly after Hamburg and, less than five months after the stabbing, the trial of Parche.
Despite Parche's confession and the hundreds of eyewitnesses who saw him stab Seles, an attempted murder charge was dismissed. He was found guilty of the lesser charge of committing grievous bodily harm and was given a suspended sentence and probation. The judge believed a psychiatrist who testified to Parche's diminished capacity and also credited Parche for his full confession and ultimate show of remorse.
Unable emotionally to attend the trial -- "How could they have expected me to go back [to Hamburg]," Seles said later. "I mean, I would have had to sit in the courtroom with my back to him" -- she instead sent a letter that was read in open court.
"I only want proper justice," it read in part. "This attack irreparably damaged my life and stopped my tennis career. . . . He has not been successful in his attempt to kill me, but he has destroyed my life."
Nineteen months later, a new judge upheld the verdict, citing Seles' refusal to testify as a determining factor. The WTA released a statement strongly condemning the German court for sending "a terrible message with wide-ranging impact." Seles collapsed in tears in front of reporters when being told of the verdict and later said she could not stop crying for days.
"I think that [got to me] more than anything, that there was no kind of punishment," Navratilova said. "The judge was like, 'Oh, he won't do it again so I'll let him go so he can really kill someone.' It was insane and so nationality driven. If someone had done that to Steffi so Monica would win, they'd have thrown away the key."
It was theorized at first that the crime was political in origin because of what many misidentified as Seles' Serbian roots (in fact, her family, which had lived in Florida since 1986, was Hungarian but came from a village near Bosnia, controlled by Serbs).
In the end, however, it was simply a tragic case of a deranged fan wanting to hurt his favorite's rival.
Seles never played in Germany again.
As for Graf, who has attracted her own share of crazy fans, she went to visit Seles in the hospital days after the attack and hours before winning the Citizen Cup singles title. Graf has seldom spoken of the incident publicly and did not respond to interview requests.
"The whole thing must have been, and still must be, a huge burden to carry [for Graf]," Shriver said.
Navratilova was not quite as understanding.
"I'm sure it shook [Graf] up, but she won a lot more than she would have otherwise," Navratilova said. "If it affected her that deeply, she would have forged a stronger bond with Monica instead of ignoring her. It was nice initially [for Graf to see Seles in the hospital, a visit Seles later described in her book as lasting 'a few minutes'], but after that?"
Either way, there is no denying the stabbing reverberated through the sport.
"She got stabbed in her office," former No. 1 Jim Courier said in a British documentary about the attack a decade later. "Can you imagine being in your office and someone opening the door, coming up behind you and sticking a knife in your [back]?"
Though rules changed immediately, with tighter protection around players during matches and their chairs turned to face the umpires and crowd, no one could erase what had happened. Navratilova described a lost sense of security after the attack.
"A couple times I had death threats at tournament, so I had to have bodyguards," she said, "but when you play a match, you're out there. Anyone with a rifle can get to you, so you are vulnerable. But this kind of attack would never occur to you.
"To me, the tennis court was an escape from all the good and bad things happening in my life. When things are going well, you're happy, playing the game you love. When things are going badly, it's a great escape to do the thing you love. But either way, you're in a total safe zone in the place you want to be. For this to happen was such a shock. You just felt extremely vulnerable."
After Seles returned to the tour, the WTA reversed its earlier decision and reinstated her No. 1 ranking, to be shared with Graf for six months. And at first, Seles appeared to have regained her old form, reaching the '95 U.S. Open final against Graf.
But Graf won in straight sets, and though Seles won one more Grand Slam title -- the '96 Australian Open -- she would never recapture what she once had. Just as alarming for those who followed her career, she would never again display the same sense of innocence coupled with a steely confidence that so dramatically set her apart.
"She would have won so much more," Navratilova lamented. "We'd be talking about Monica with the most Grand Slam titles [ahead of] Margaret Court or Steffi Graf. Steffi had 22 [Navratilova and Evert have 18 apiece], but she didn't have anyone to play against. This guy changed the course of tennis history, no doubt about that."
"People forget," Fernandez said. "If you look at [Seles'] record, she has nine Grand Slams, which is an amazing career. But she would have had double that at least. . . . She took our game to another level."
Seles' last competitive match was at the French Open in 2003, but she would not formally announce her retirement until 2008, the same year she became a contestant on "Dancing with the Stars."
In 2009, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Fernandez said that today Seles is "doing great. I don't think I'd have ever played again. The fact that she returned to the court was amazing. And then to win a major again shows just how strong mentally she was to put that behind her."
The woman Fernandez describes is still charitably driven, particularly with causes involving children and animals. She is still very close to her mother, Ester, and her older brother, Zoltan, who rode with her in the ambulance that day in Hamburg and held her hand. And she is a thoughtful friend, never forgetting Fernandez's children's birthdays.
"She's a very well-adjusted woman, smart, caring, one of the best women I know," Fernandez said. "She's considerate and a really good person, which shows her character and reflects her upbringing by great parents.
"She has been able to move on and create a great life for herself. [The attack] is something that will always be there, unfortunately, but Monica is strong like she always has been."
I might be an oddball, but when gauging sports history, I try to minimize the significance of knife-wielding lunatics.
That's why I long have believed the stabbing of Monica Seles during a changeover in Germany 20 years ago Tuesday defies categorization, so the conversation about the history of women's tennis has to be different from the conversation about any other sport.
Had Seles' soaring career met with 27-month hiatus and a permanent dip from dominance because of a knee injury, the conversation could bemoan the bad luck but sigh that it's part of the game. Instead, this entire sport veered on a freakish act of violence, and that puts us …
That puts everybody kind of fumbling around to assess, or not assessing at all given the grimness. Already the Seles name seems generally absent from discussions of the all-time top tier. I wish I could rectify that.
As of April 30, 1993, in Hamburg, a 19-year-old Seles from the bygone Yugoslavia reigned as a runaway No. 1. She had turned up in the late 1980s as a charmingly giggly teen -- "She's Doris Day," the great tennis figure Ted Tinling once told the great tennis figure Bud Collins -- churning toward the dominant Steffi Graf, four years her senior.
In a 1989 French Open semifinal, a 15-year-old Seles won a set against Graf, pretty darned near a feat at that time. In the 1990 French Open final, a 16-year-old Seles stood in there in her first Grand Slam final against a great Graf who had reached -- astonishingly -- her 13th straight Grand Slam final, winning nine of the previous 12. Seles also stood behind 6-2 in a first-set tiebreaker.
In one of the most astounding things I ever saw on TV, Seles hoarded the next six points.
Her father in the stands gestured as if to say, You're kidding me.
His daughter personified athletic fearlessness.
Of course, by April 1993, Seles had hoarded seven of the previous nine Grand Slam titles for a personal total of eight as a burgeoning object in the rear-view mirror of Graf's then-total of 11. The generation had produced somebody who could render the mighty Graf secondary. Graf's decided No. 2 ranking enraged the unhinged man who stabbed Seles from behind, from the base of the stands, in a turn of life still half-impossible to believe.
A public figure stabbed from behind while at work carries understandable psychological ramifications. (A college basketball coach once told me the story kept him awake sometimes and made him want to alter his penchant for bantering with fans, just in case.) By the time Seles returned in 1995, she might have won six or seven or eight of the 10 Grand Slams she missed, but Graf's then-17 Grand Slam titles must have seemed among the world's vast pile of trivialities. Seles still could play on a level just about out of this world, reaching four more Slam finals and winning one (as a whole horde of people would love to do), but she always seemed bereft of that sense of the game's utmost cruciality.
At rarefied levels, that will cost you.
The man who stabbed Seles robbed viewers of years of potential Seles-Graf donnybrooks. He might have robbed Graf even more -- of the chance to marshal herself to regain reign, which she may well have done. And he left us with this singular sports-history puzzle. Asked once at Wimbledon if she ever thought about "what was lost in those 27 months," Seles replied that she thought about what was lost "that one day." She has worked like mad to foist the event off herself and hurl it definitively into her past -- thus her reluctance to discuss it at this juncture -- and you have to respect that.
So in the conversation, here's my part: My assessments of sports history trade on all the usual factors such as talent, guts, teamwork, number of trophies, ways of winning the trophies, luck, injuries and accidental tragedy. I do not accept violence as a method for telling me who was greater than whom. When violence does intervene, my only recourse comes with reassessing the relevant numbers.
I find Graf's 22 Grand Slam titles inflated, and I find it curious that you don't get a lot of awestruck references to that numeral 22, and I wonder if it's because people do feel a wince or an asterisk in there somewhere. I find Seles' nine titles understated. I see them not necessarily as equals but as sharers of a historical rung. With somebody as great as Graf, a generation can muster only one -- or few -- people who can summon a similar level. That person, in Graf's case, happened to meet with unnatural removal, but also with pointed removal. In a bid to prevent such vileness from winning out, I seek to take the usual conversation and lend it the unusualness it warrants.
For me, the top 10 players of the Open era are -- in alphabetical order -- Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Evonne Goolagong, Graf, Justine Henin, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Seles, Serena Williams and Venus Williams. That's easy; they all won seven or more Grand Slams, so that simply uses numbers. But the tiptop shelf has the double-digit Open-era crowd: Court, Evert, Graf, King, Navratilova and Serena Williams -- and then Seles. And the top players of the last 25 years are Graf (with 22 Slams), Serena Williams (with 15 Slams) -- and Seles.
That's because I know her nine was bigger than nine, I know the wretched reason it stopped at nine, and I don't accept as merit -- or even as accidental fate -- the wretched reason it stopped at nine.
The Book Trailer For 'The Academy' By Monica Seles
At the world's most elite academy for athletic teens, the competition on the playing field is fierce...and the competition off it is even fiercer. That's the story behind the much-anticipated new YA novel "The Academy: Game On"—the first book in the new series by Monica Seles (the international tennis superstar who's also an alumna of a hardcore sports training school, so you know she knows what she's talking about!). And today, we've got an EXCLUSIVE first look at the trailer, which promises all the juicy scandal of a great boarding-school drama plus the added twist of a young tennis star's Cinderella story.
The premise: Maya, a gifted young tennis star, gets the chance of a lifetime when her skills score her a scholarship to the world's most competitive school for aspiring athletes. But when she arrives, she discovers that her ability to wield a racket is the least of her worries; the school is a hotbed of conflicts that center on everything from wealth to romance, and it's ruled over by a mean queen bee whose parents bought her way in. Will Maya be able to steer clear of the drama and focus exclusively on her goal of becoming a pro player? ...Uh, we hope not! That sounds so boring! Bring on the frenemy backstabbing and secret dorm sex!
"The Academy: Game On" will hit bookstores June 4.
These days, women’s tennis is a power-dominated game made up of big hitters capable of generating extraordinary ferocity off their serves and groundstrokes and a new stubborn breed of counter-punchers possessing tenacity, agility and speed to absorb the pace and frustrate their opponents into errors. But it’s amazing to think how recent the power era actually is.
Back in 1990, there were few female players capable of consistently dominating rallies from the back of the court. Serve-volley was still the order of the day. It wasn’t really necessary to be capable of pinging lines with stinging forehands and backhands as the objective was to finish points at the net. Serve played a role in setting up the volley but hardly any players were capable of actually hitting regular aces.
Steffi Graf was the dominant player thanks to her ferocious forehand which generated pace which no other woman on tour could match. However that was before Monica Seles came along.
Slightly taller than Graf, Seles was to become the German’s biggest rival in the early nineties. She wasn’t especially mobile but she made up for that with her crunching groundstrokes on both wings. Imagine a more consistent version of Marion Bartoli and you get the picture.
She was naturally left-handed but used two hands for both her forehand and her backhand, which meant there wasn’t really a wing which could be targeted. And unlike the generation before her, she looked to dominate the points from the back of the court with sheer unrestrained power.
While Graf was more of an artist, inducing weaker shots with her deft backhand slice and then skipping around to crunch a forehand into the space, Seles won her points through simply bludgeoning players into submission.
Her power meant she could pin Graf into her backhand corner with heavy forehands and then blaze a winner down the line. These were tactics which weren’t really seen again until the Williams sisters were at their peak almost a decade later.
Single-handed backhands were still pretty commonplace when Seles turned professional. During her career she showed just how effective the double-handed could be, giving extra control over the ball when hitting heavy flat shots. It was a new way of thinking. Before the backhand had mainly been seen as a way of keeping the ball in play and perhaps hitting with heavy slice to get into the net but now Seles was using it as a genuine offensive weapon.
Even Graf at the peak of her powers struggled to deal with the Seles game and if it hadn’t been for the fateful events of 1993, then it might have been Seles who won the lion’s share of the slams in the nineties.
The Academy is the international sports school. So it's all about sport, right? Not when there are two ways in. Be the best. Or the super-rich...and insanely powerful.
Maya is a tennis star-in-the-making and a scholarship kid. Her gift earned her a place on the courts. Now she is friends with the wealthiest girl in school and she has the attention of two irresistible brothers. But there aren't just two players in this game and you never know who your real competition is. As Maya is about to find out.
This glitzy world of sports academies comes to you from international sensation and winner of nine Grand Slam titles, Monica Seles.
Maya comes from a poor family. For as long as she can remember, her parents have invested any money that comes their way into her future - Tennis. Maya has tried year after year to get into the prestigious academy, and is finally successful on the fourth year of applying. But the academy ends up changing more than just her tennis skills...
The main theme in this story is discovering yourself, and it carries the message that you should always stay true to yourself. Maya ends up being the person she never wanted to be.
At times, Maya annoyed me. Sometimes it seemed like she didn't have any common sense. However, she improved towards the end of the story and I started to like her. I liked her friends Cleo and Renee. They were sweet characters and loyal friends. The two love interests, brothers Travis and Jake, just confused me! I wasn't sure who Maya was meant to be having a crush on, who she was going out with or which one she disliked. They were interesting characters, but it was a bit confusing when they were in the same scene.
This story was fun to read and I read it all in a couple of hours. The plot was good and I've never actually read a book set in a sports academy so it made a nice change. I give this book a rating of 4/5.
Ana Ivanovic says Monica Seles was her idol when growing up
Former world no. 1 Ana Ivanovic has said that nine time grand slam champion Monica Seles was her idol while she was growing up.
Speaking to the WTA Tour website, the Serb, currently ranked inside the top 20, said, "I loved her intensity and aggression: it seemed like she made every ball count. She always looked very focused, playing in the moment. I admired that a lot. And then she was always very gracious after a victory or a defeat. I learnt from her in this respect."
Ivanovic said she also liked watching Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi in her younger days. "Although I was a big fan of Monica I also enjoyed watching Graf, especially her forehand, because that has always been my best stroke too. I was very inspired by Agassi, on the guys' side."
Ivanovic's own game is also built on her big forehand.
The Serb won the French Open singles title in 2008 but has failed to advance to another semi-final since.