News from 2003

Mercedes-Benz Classic - An All Star Charity Event


Meredes-Benz Classic

A celebrity packed tennis lineup, featuring Jim Courier, Andy Roddick, Jennifer Capriati, James Blake and Monica Seles, comes together in support of the First Serve Program and the St. Petersburg Tennis Foundation in the Mercedes-Benz Classic. The star-studded match, at the St. Pete Times Forum, Tuesday, March 23rd @ 7:00 PM, will feature the biggest names in American Tennis! This event is presented by Subway and in association with the St. Petersburg Times and Tennis Life Magazine.

One hundred percent of ticket proceeds from this event will benefit the First Serve Program and the St. Petersburg Tennis Foundation.

Jim Courier was ranked the #1 player in the world in 1992, a position he held for 58 weeks! With 23 career single titles and 4 Grand Slam Singles titles, Jim Courier has earned legendary tennis icon status.

Andy Roddick, 2003 US Open Champion, became the youngest American to finish number one in history of ATP Rankings and is one of the most celebrated athletes in the United States. He's been featured in non-sports publications ranging from Rolling Stone to Vogue, voted Sexiest Athlete by People Magazine and recently hosted Saturday Night Live.

Jennifer Capriati, labeled the great hope of American women's tennis, is one of the best tennis players in the world. She never fails to enrapture her fans with a fresh approach to the game she masters and holds closest to her heart. She was introduced to tennis at the early age of three. However, it wasn't until March 5, 1990, at age 14, that she became a professional tennis player. The WTA Rankings of October 2001 announced Jennifer as the #1 ranked player in the world. She has currently won twelve professional titles and $4,300,000 in career prize money. She has 12 WTA Tour singles titles and 2 Grand Slam titles. Most recently, she has simply had an unbelievable year. She won two Grand Slam titles-the Australian and French Open-and reached the semifinals of Wimbledon and the US Open. In addition, she has won an abundance of prestigious awards, such as the 2001 Sports Illustrated for Women Sportswoman of the Year, 2001 March of Dimes Sportswoman of the Year, 2001 Trans World Sport Sportswoman of the Year and the 2001 Laureus Award.

Monica Seles made her professional debut at Boca Raton in 1988. Her 1992 Roland Garros Marathon final against Stefi Graf was voted by worldwide media as the greatest match in the 30-year history of the WTA Tour. In 1995, Tennis Magazine named Seles the Comeback player of the year, and she was voted most exciting player by fans in 1995 and 1997. She holds 53 WTA Tour singles titles and 6 WTA Tour Doubles Titles and 9 Grand Slam Titles. Outside of tennis, Monica has appeared on the covers of Vogue, Elle, Seventeen and Sports Illustrated.

James Blake, member of the 2003 Davis Cup Team, was born in Yonkers, NY. He attended college at Harvard University, and lives and trains locally at Saddlebrook. Blake currently ranks 27, with a year-end ranking of 28.

The First Serve Program is the USTA's national initiative to introduce inner city youth to the life-long sport of tennis. Now in its second year, the program was launched in Florida and has 4 basic components: tennis instruction, computer classes, academics and mentoring. First Serve offers its programs free to participants.

The St. Petersburg Tennis Foundation is a living testament to the colorful history of world-class tennis. For three-quarters of a century, the center has been the site of major tournaments headlined by some of the sports most recognizable names. In the Golden Era, Jack Kramer, Don Budge, Bill Tilden, Doris Hart and Shirley Frye all played on our courts. In the modern era, Arthur Ashe, Billy Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Anna Kournikova have all played here.

The center opened in 1928 with five clay courts and moved to its current Bartlett Park location seven years later. The center has since grown to 15 Hart-Tru clay courts- the only public clay courts in town. Today, the center is home to Rick Crockett's First Serve program, which is designed to bring tennis to a new generation of future champions.

Mercedes-Benz is the proud title sponsor of this event and have 3 locations in the Bay area: Mercedes-Benz of Tampa (4636 N. Dale Mabry Hwy Tampa), Crown Eurocars (6001 34th St. N., St. Petersburg) and Lokey Motor Company (19820 U.S. Hwy. 19 North Clearwater).

Tickets for this event will go on sale Friday, December 12 – 12:00pm, at the St. Pete Times Forum Ticket Office and all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers including Spec's Music, FYE and the USF Sun Dome.

To order tickets by phone call Ticketmaster at 813.287.8844 or 727.898.2100. Group discounts are available by calling 813.301.6900. For more information please call 813.301.2500 or visit

Tickets are priced at $46.75, $26.75, $16.75. Limited courtside seats are available for $76.75. Prices do not include service charges.


French Open Finals Selected Greatest Matches in 30 Year History of WTA Tour


LOS ANGELES, CA – The 1999 and 1992 French Open finals were voted the Greatest Matches in the WTA Tour’s 30-year history by fans and the media, respectively.

In the 1992 final at Roland Garros that was chosen by the worldwide media, Monica Seles won a marathon battle against Steffi Graf 6-2, 3-6, 10-8.

In the 1999 final selected by fans, Graf pulled off a tense and dramatic rally to stun Martina Hingis 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

The winning matches were selected after more than two months of online voting on the WTA Tour website ( Fans and media made their choices from a list of 16 memorable matches from the Open era in WTA Tour history.

In the ’92 Seles-Graf match, Seles broke for a 3-1 lead in the third, but Graf rallied to take leads of 6-5 and 7-6.  Seles stood her ground and served for the match at 8-7, yet Graf held on.  Finally, facing a sixth match-point against her in the 18th game of the third set, Graf’s forehand nicked the tape and fell back on her own side.  The crowd’s cheering reduced Graf to tears and Seles graciously admitted that both players deserved to win the match.

“It was a very high quality and intense match from the very beginning until the end,’’ Graf said.  “I was 5-3 down and gave myself the chance to get back into the match.  It went back and forth and eventually Monica ran out the winner.  The thing that stands out in my mind was how supportive the crowd was that day toward me.’’

The ’99 Graf-Hingis match was all about intensity and drama.  Hingis was in the pressure-packed position of being the overwhelming favorite, while Graf seemingly had nothing to lose.

The match will forever be remembered for what happened with Hingis leading 2-0 in the second set. Hingis thought a forehand return clipped the baseline, and when the umpire couldn’t find the ball mark left in the clay court, Hingis marched around to Graf’s side of the court to point it out.  She was issued a point penalty (She had earlier broken a racquet) and was now just one indiscretion away from being defaulted.  It was the reprieve Graf needed.

Graf won six straight games at one point that essentially spelled doom for Hingis, who eventually left the court to go to the bathroom. While she was gone, Graf joined the crowd in doing the Mexican wave.

Down match point, Hingis had one more trick up her sleeve and unleashed a Michael Chang-like underarm serve, which threw Graf off.  But Graf recovered and used her trademark forehand to carry her the rest of the way to victory.

Hingis, just 18 at the time, had to be coaxed back on court by her mother for the trophy ceremony and held up well while speaking in French afterwards.

Immediately afterwards, Graf said it was “one of the craziest matches’’ she had ever played.

“I would like to thank the fans for selecting this match,’’ Graf said.  “My memories from that day were that it wasn’t the best tennis, but it was very exciting.  I certainly did not expect to be physically and mentally ready after beating Lindsay (Davenport) and Monica (Seles) in two tough matches.

“It was amazing since I hadn’t played in a Grand Slam final since my knee surgery and I did not show the same level of competitiveness in important moments during matches up until that point.  When I look back now, it was the biggest win I ever achieved during my tennis career.’’


Seles targets Melbourne


MONICA SELES has ruled out making a comeback before next January's Australian Open as she is still recovering from a stress fracture in her left foot.

Attending the US Open for a sponsor event today, Seles said she is still unable to run and practise and that her foot needs another two-and-a-half months to heal.

"Playing the Australian Open is my goal but if that doesn't work out, I'll probably return in Miami (in-mid March)," said the 29-year-old.

The nine-times grand slam champion, who has been out of action since losing in the first round of the French Open in May, added she is not planning to retire.

"I don't want to go out this way," she said.

But Seles is kicking herself for missing a chance to compete in this year's US Open, which is without the injured Williams sisters for the first time since 1996.

"Have you seen this draw?" said Seles. "There's not going to be another one like this for at least another five years."


Seles, Lendl, King reminisce about playing at US Open


NEW YORK: Ivan Lendl, Monica Seles and Billie Jean King took a walk down memory lane at a joint appearance, reminiscing about the thrills of playing - and winning - the US Open Tennis Tournament.

"If you like noise and confusion and hoopla and fun and just a lot of noise pollution, then New York's where you want to be," four-time winner King told a crowd gathered at Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan on Tuesday, where a large screen has been set up to televise the event.

Seles, a two-time US Open winner sidelined this year due to a stress fracture, agreed. "The best crowd is definitely the US Open ... they know their tennis and they really just get into it."

Lendl, a Czech national who competed against American favorites such as John McEnroe, said he enjoyed playing even when the crowd was less than supportive.

"I always felt you draw from the crowd no matter what," said Lendl, who won the US Open in 1985, 1986 and 1987.


Seles for ASB Classic?


Monica Seles is on the shopping list for this summer's ASB tennis classic in Auckland.

Tournament organiser Richard Palmer is hoping to secure some big names as he heads off to New York to watch the US Open, starting early next week.

Palmer has his eye on the likes of former world number one Seles, and up and comer Maria Sharapova.

He says they are looking to sign players on the way out of the rankings and up and coming stars, which means Seles and Sharapova are perfect.

He says it will be an interesting time, especially with a few of the big names no longer playing.

Richard Palmer says the retirements of Martina Hingis and Aranxta Sanchez Vicario limits the players he can approach, and possibly limits options elsewhere.


Tennis Legends Win Match Point With Milk


WASHINGTON -- The stars of women's tennis are tossing aside their rackets to serve up a glass of nutrient-packed milk. Tennis pros Chris Evert, Monica Seles and Mary Jo Fernandez have teamed up to show women that milk should be a 'Grand Slam' in their lives. The tennis stars' ad speaks out to the nine of out 10 women who fail to get the recommended level of calcium in their diets. The three legendary ladies will be the newest addition to the milk mustache family as they pose with their mustaches in the September issue of ESPN Magazine.


Monica Seles Pulls Out of U.S. Open


NEW YORK (AP) -- Monica Seles pulled out of the U.S. Open on Friday with a left foot injury that has sidelined her since May and could end her career.

The nine-time major champion, including the 1991-92 U.S. Opens, hasn't played a competitive match since losing in the first round of the French Open.

``Monica has been advised by her doctors that the stress fracture in her left foot is not yet healed 100 percent,'' her agent, Tony Godsick, said in a telephone interview. ``She is very disappointed, as she loves the U.S. Open and the New York crowds.''

He said it's not clear whether Seles will play again this season.

Seles was not available for comment.

After she was beaten by eventual semifinalist Nadia Petrova at the French Open, Seles said she needed to take some time away from the game to see if her injured feet will heal enough to allow her to play without pain.

``I know I'm in the later stages of my career,'' she said at the time. ``I don't have the luxury of taking five-to-six months off. At the same time, I don't want to have surgery.''

Since then, she pulled out of several tournaments, including Wimbledon and a hard-court event this week in Toronto.


Tennis Stars & American Express Pair Up to Promote the US Open


NEW YORK, PRNewswire/ -- American Express today announced that tennis great Andre Agassi will promote the company's sponsorship of the 2003 US Open Tennis Championships through a number of advertising and promotional programs, including a new television commercial. The campaign will also include new print creative featuring Monica Seles, James Blake and Daniela Hantuchova. For the past 10 years, American Express has served as the "Official Card of the US Open." Through this year's integrated campaign, the Company continues to provide unique experiences and special benefits for Cardmembers.

The new Agassi commercial builds on the ongoing umbrella advertising campaign entitled, "The Official Card," which leverages the Official Card status American Express holds with a variety of sports and entertainment sponsorships including the US Open. In the spot, the tag line is "The Official Card of Parenthood" showcasing Agassi's personal interests off the court. It shows Agassi in a humorous scenario using his American Express® Card to purchase a ball hopper, which he then takes home and uses to pick up toys his son has scattered across the floor. The ad will launch in the New York metro area on August 19 and will air nationwide beginning August 25 to promote the US Open taking place August 25-September 7. The campaign will also incorporate a television ad featuring Seles, in the "Official Card of Being Yourself," which debuted during last year's US Open.

"We have an exciting line-up of talent this year, and are thrilled to be working with Andre," said Richard Quigley, senior vice president of Global Advertising for American Express. "The new creative for the US Open allows us to engage our Cardmembers, whether they are tennis fans or not, by showing great achievers like Andre doing common things in uncommon ways."

Along with Agassi and Seles, rising stars James Blake and Daniela Hantuchova will also be featured in the "Official Card of the US Open" campaign. Each of the players will appear in traditional and nontraditional media including print, online and major outdoor venues throughout New York, including highway billboards, ferries, buses, subways, taxis and at the US Open.

In addition to the advertising campaign, American Express will also have a substantial presence on-site at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows and will feature several special Cardmember benefit programs throughout the tournament. American Express will also feature a comprehensive website ( for fans and Cardmembers. The website will contain numerous features including an online auction for official US Open game-used memorabilia, fantasy packages and unique event experiences, as well as autographed items donated by Agassi. Proceeds from the online auction will benefit the Harlem Jr. Tennis League and the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation. Additionally, website users are able to create their own customized US Open schedule each day, before heading out to the Open.

American Express Commitment to Sponsorships

American Express has sponsorship relationships with a number of premier entertainment and sports properties including Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall, the NBA and WNBA, the US Open, Tiger Woods, Tribeca Film Festival and World Golf Championships.

In addition to supporting sponsored properties with advertising and marketing, American Express looks for ways to enhance the Cardmember experience with on-site servicing, Cardmember events and special offers including early on-sale for event tickets.

American Express Company is a diversified worldwide travel, financial and network services company founded in 1850. It is a leader in charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, financial planning, investment products, insurance and international. For more information on American Express, visit


Monica Seles withdraws from Rogers AT&T Cup tournament


TORONTO (AP) -- Monica Seles withdrew from next month's Rogers AT&T Cup tennis tournament Wednesday because of a left foot injury.

``We are disappointed that Monica's injury will prevent her from competing,'' tournament director Stacey Allaster said. ``She has always enjoyed competing in Canada. We wish her the very best in her recovery from injury.''

Top-ranked Serena Williams withdrew two weeks ago, citing a scheduling conflict. The tournament is scheduled for Aug. 11-17.

Seles has been out of action since a first-round appearance at the French Open. She always has been a sentimental favorite in Canada, where she launched her comeback in 1995 following more than two years away from tennis after she was stabbed by a deranged fan.

No. 2 Kim Clijsters of Belgium will be the highest-ranked player in the tournament. Forty-one of the top 50 players in the world have confirmed they will play, including Clijsters, Venus Williams, Justine Henin-Hardenne, defending champion Amelie Mauresmo of France and 46-year-old Martina Navratilova.


Rubin, Stevenson Replace Injured Venus, Monica On U.S. Fed Cup Teamr


Stricken by injuries to its star players, the U.S. Fed Cup squad has undergone a dramatic makeover the week before its quarterfinal tie against Italy in Washington, D.C. Chanda Rubin and Alexandra Stevenson have been selected to the U.S. squad by captain Billie Jean King, replacing Venus Williams and Monica Seles, who both withdrew due to injuries.

The eighth-ranked Rubin and 30th-ranked Stevenson join Meghann Shaughnessy and Lisa Raymond on the United States team that will play Italy at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center July 19-20th. Wimbledon quarterfinalist Silvia Farina Elia, Rita Grande, Tathiana Garbin and Francesca Schiavone are expected to be named to the Italian squad today.

The 24th-ranked Seles has been hobbled by a painful injury to the sesamoid bone in her right foot. The 12th-seeded Seles limped out of the French Open in a 6-4, 6-0 loss to Nadia Petrova last month. It was the first time in her storied career that Seles suffered a first-round loss in a Grand Slam. She has not played a match since, but had hoped to return to play in the Fed Cup tie.

"I just talked to Monica and she had an MRI on her foot," King said in a June 26th interview with Tennis Week. "It (the injury) is just a little bit of a stretch. She's starting to hit already. She's very excited about playing Fed Cup. Things look good right now. Obviously, if there's a problem, she'll call me."

Apparently, the injury is still bothering Seles, who was forced to withdraw.

Shaughnessy and Raymond are the likely U.S. doubles team for this tie. In their only previous pairing for the United States, they defeated Israel's Tzipora Obziler and Hila Rosen in last year's Fed Cup World Group playoffs.


Seles joins Venus for US Fed Cup quarter-final


Venus Williams will be joined by nine-times grand slam champion Monica Seles for next month's U.S. Fed Cup quarter-final against Italy, team captain Billie Jean King said on Friday.

World number 20 Meghann Shaughnessy and Lisa Raymond, the world's sixth-ranked doubles player, will also line up for the Americans in Washington, D.C. over July 19-20.

World number four Venus committed to the U.S. team some weeks ago. Her younger sister Serena, defending champion at this week's Wimbledon championships, has decided not to take part.

For Seles, the tie will mark a return to competition for the first time since May 27.

"Monica is one of the game's greatest players and is very excited to be hitting again and playing Fed Cup in D.C.," said King.

"We are fortunate to have Monica, Venus, Meghann and Lisa together as a strong team with so much depth and experience to face a tough opponent."

Italian captain Corrado Barrazzutti has until July 9 to select his team.


WTA Tour Launches Worldwide Brand Marketing Campaign


WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND – The WTA Tour announced today the launch of a landmark brand marketing campaign. The worldwide campaign, which centers around the slogan "Get In Touch With Your Feminine Side,'' features many of the WTA Tour's internationally-recognized stars, including Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, Venus Williams and Daniela Hantuchova, in a striking and vibrant 30-second television commercial and a variety of print ads.

The television and print ads, which represent the most significant branding effort in the Tour's 30-year history, will at first be used primarily by WTA Tour tournaments in approximately 30 countries in the promotion of their events, strengthening the position of women's tennis as the pre-eminent professional women's sport. The print ads debut on billboards in prominent London locations this week, coinciding with the start of The Championships at Wimbledon.

"The launch of the 'Get In Touch With Your Feminine Side' campaign is a milestone for women's professional tennis that will further highlight the unique appeal of our star athletes and game," WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott said. "Women's professional tennis is the leading global sport for women, and this campaign projects an exciting and consistent image to our growing fan base around the world."

The brand marketing campaign took several months to develop and is the creative work of the San Francisco office of the prestigious global advertising firm TBWA/Chiat/Day, which also created highly successful advertising campaigns involving the Energizer Bunny and Apple Computers. The campaign aims to redefine the idea of femininity, as well as deliver the excitement of women's professional tennis to a broader audience.

The marketing concept captures and conveys the strength and tenacity of women's tennis, as well as the grace and femininity that it invariably exudes. The campaign is conspicuous yet fluid, and signals a noticeable departure from the more traditional sports advertising campaigns of the past few years.

"This new brand marketing campaign is designed to showcase our players and illustrate how the game has evolved in terms of attitude, athleticism and style,'' said Dave Larson, WTA Tour Vice President of Marketing and Communications. "With this new emphasis in women's professional tennis on fitness, strength and competitiveness, the notion of femininity has been redefined. Tennis is faster, more competitive and more exciting as a spectator sport, and we believe we have uniquely captured this new sense of empowerment and evolution in our brand marketing campaign."

The television commercial and print ads, which are being packaged along with a Tour logo style guide as a "Tournament in a Box,'' are an initial step in the Tour's brand building efforts for its tournaments. The television and print ads can be customized by the tournaments to meet their individual promotional needs.

"I really like the theme and feel of the campaign,'' two-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams said. "I think this is exactly the kind of marketing the game needs in order to generate even more exposure for our sport.''

The brand marketing campaign is the latest in a growing list of initiatives being launched by the WTA Tour in an effort to better serve the Tour's constituents and grow the popularity of women's tennis worldwide. The marketing campaign signals a significant feat in the advancement of the WTA Tour and women's tennis globally.


Big names out of Wimbledon


LONDON, June 16 (UPI) -- Former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia has pulled out of the event gain this year because of a variety of injuries.

Ivanisevic, who has struggled with them since winning the 2001 title, pulled out of this year's event because of a knee injury. He was beaten in the first round by Jan Vacek in last week's Stella Artois tournament.

Also withdrawing are former women's world No. 1 Monica Seles and Anna Kournikova.

Seles has continuing problems with her foot. Kournikova has a nagging back injury.

Seles, who was Wimbledon runnerup to Steffi Graf in 1992, has said that if she will retire if she continues to be plagued by foot problems.

Kournikova has yet to win a tour title and has slipped to No. 77 in the world rankings.

Also out are Tommy Haas, who has a shouldr injury, and former men's world No. 1 Marcelo Rios, who dislikes grass tournaments.

Wimbledon begins June 23.


Injured and beaten Seles refuses to give up


PARIS: Monica Seles, suffering from nagging foot problems, was beaten 6-4 6-0 by Russian Nadia Petrova for her first loss in the first round of any tennis grand slam at the French Open here today.

The American, seeded 12th, had never been beaten before the quarter-finals in 10 previous appearances in a tournament she won three times between 1990 and 1992.

Seles, 29, has been hampered by foot injuries for several seasons and was forced out of several tournaments this year, the last time in Rome earlier in May.

"Today my wish to play and my performance did not match," she said.

"Like I said in Rome, I wanted to play in the French Open and once I had decided to play, I gave it my best shot."

Her previous worst showing in a grand slam came in second-round defeats at Wimbledon in 1996 and the Australian Open earlier this year.

But despite the defeat and her injury worries, she believes she can still compete at the top level.

"Last year I had a very good year and when I'm healthy, I know I can play well, have good results and still have real pleasure out there," she said.

"This year has not been a good year. I just have to give it a break and reassess what I'm going to do."

Seles said she was now going to take some time off and see how her foot condition improved before making a decision about the future, but said she would skip Wimbledon if the pain did not ease.

"I'm in the later stages of my career and I don't have the luxury of taking five or six months off," she added.

"I'm hard-headed but I must see how my foot will respond. It's not the way I would like to leave.

"I won't give up but I also must listen to my body."

Asked whether she might retire because of the injury, she did not completely rule out the possibility.

"It's one of the options if I'm in pain, but I won't give up," she said.


Seles quits match with foot injury


ROME -- Monica Seles pulled out of her second-round match at the Italian Open on Wednesday because of a lingering foot injury.

Seles was using this $1.3 million tournament as a key clay-court tuneup for the French Open, which starts May 26. She said she will still attempt to play in Paris.

Seles, seeded 10th, had lost the first set to Nadia Petrova 6-3 and was down 4-1 in the second against the Russian when she signaled on the changeover that she had had enough.

Seles missed several tournaments earlier this year because of her injured left foot.

On Tuesday, she rallied for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory against 46th-ranked Myriam Casanova and then pulled out of doubles because of her injury.

Facing Petrova, Seles lost her serve in the first game of the match and then again early in the second set. She did not attempt to run down several of Petrova's shots.


Seles beats Casanova in Rome


Rome - American Monica Seles advanced to the second round of the Rome Masters on Tuesday after defeating feisty Swiss 17-year-old Myriam Casanova here at the Foro Italico.

Winner of four Grand Slams, 29-year-old Seles responded well after losing the first set and eventually triumphed 4-6 6-2 6-3 in the Italian capital.

A champion here in 1990 and 2000 and a former world number one, Seles will now face Russian Nadia Petrova in the next round.

"It's a great feeling to be back here and see my fans," said Seles, who was just 19 when she was stabbed in the back in Hamburg by a fanatical fan of her then-rival Steffi Graf.

"Myriam is a young, up-and-coming player and she hits the ball so hard, it was a really hard fought match."

Broken in the opening game, Seles had quick chances to even the scores but she spurned two break points in an error-strewn fourth game.

Growing in confidence, Casanova's two-handed backhand proved her most effective weapon as she went on to take the first set 6-4 in 36 minutes.

With Seles' first serve percentage remaining above 70 per cent in the second, Seles stormed back to draw level, as Casanova wilted in the blazing afternoon sun.

Casanova broke in the fourth game of the decider to go 3-1 up in the third, and although her vicious serve gave her experienced opponent problems, a string of unforced errors undid all her good work and allowed the American to advance.


Tenth anniversary of a violent day for Seles and tennis


by By HAL BOCK, AP Sports Writer

Women's tennis changed dramatically 10 years ago, altered forever in the middle of an otherwise ordinary match by a man with a knife.

Monica Seles was resting during a changeover at the Hamburg Open. She had gone through hundreds of them in a career that had taken her to the top of women's tennis.

This one was not routine.

The 19-year-old winner of six Grand Slam titles in the previous two years was toweling off in a chair, catching her breath for the next game against Magdalena Maleeva. She had been sidelined for more than two months with a viral infection. She would have to pace herself in a match she was leading 6-4, 4-3.

Then, in an instant, Seles felt a sharp pain in her back.

Guenter Parche had made his way through the stands to courtside. With no one stopping him, the German came up behind Seles and plunged a 5-inch knife into her back, just below her left shoulder blade.

Seles screamed and collapsed, her face contorted by shock and pain. Aides rushed to her and she was taken to Hamburg Hospital.

``Never mind the personal implications, the life-altering event that was,'' Martina Navratilova said. ``It changed the course of tennis history. We'll never know what she might have been, how many more slams she would have won.''

The attack reverberated across sports. Players became more wary of fans, teams and organizers were forced to re-examine security arrangements. The concern was underlined this month at a Chicago White Sox game when a fan ran on the field and tired to tackle an umpire.

Even now, with Wednesday the 10th anniversary of the attack in Germany, Seles thinks the prominent players are vulnerable.

You're totally accessible,'' she said. ``There's no other sport that you're as accessible as in tennis.''

Seles does not like to talk about that violent day in Germany, but last month at a Florida tournament she was asked about her career.

``I really don't dwell in the past,'' she said. ``Would I change? Yeah, I wish I didn't get stabbed and played and competed at the highest level for those few years.''

Parche was obsessed with Steffi Graf, who was competing with Seles for the top spot in women's tennis. By injuring Seles, he reasoned, he would give Graf an edge.

He was right about that.

Navratilova had Chris Evert to create one of the great rivalries in sports. But Graf never really had Seles, who arrived on the scene after Graf swept the four Grand Slam tournaments in 1988.

Seles was the No. 1 player when she was attacked. She had won the Australian, French and U.S. Open titles in each of the previous two years. There had been three straight Australian crowns after Graf had won three in a row there. Seles had won 30 singles titles in just five years, eight of them Grand Slams.

Then Parche struck.

The knife wound healed quickly. The psychological injury took far longer.

Seles was off the court for 27 months. Friends and players tried to help her, Navratilova among them.

``We were good enough friends before,'' she said. ``I wanted to be there for her. I was there to ease her concerns and her fears. I don't know if I could or if I would want to step on the court after something like that.

``We hit. We talked. We visited. The longer she stayed away, the more I thought she would stay away. I wasn't sure at first that she would be back. The more she put it off, the harder I thought it would be for her.''

Slowly, Seles regained her confidence.

``She had an emotional trauma,'' Navratilova said. ``Nobody had ever gone through it. This never happened before. She was in uncharted territory. It makes you grow up faster than you want.''

Finally, there was a ballyhooed exhibition against Navratilova in Atlantic City, N.J. Seles was so nervous she double-faulted on the first point but went on to win. Then, in August 1995, she played the Canadian Open in Toronto.

Seles cruised through that U.S. Open warmup, never dropping a set. It was vintage Seles.

Or was it?

Her tennis was topflight. Her frame of mind was not.

``There are flashbacks,'' she said. ``On long points, I start thinking. Then I tell myself, `You can't do this. You're in a match. Just go out and play great tennis.' Reality is still there. I can't forget that. The reality is it happened. It will always be there.''

Less than a month later, Seles reached the U.S Open final against Graf, losing 7-6 (6), 0-6, 6-3. She went on to win a fourth Australian title in 1996 but has reached just two other Grand Slam finals since -- losing the U.S. Open in 1996 and the French Open in 1998, three weeks after the death of her father.

She has had injuries from shoulder to knee. At 29 she is no longer a dominant player, ranked No. 12. She has never played in Germany again.

When Parche went on trial, she sent a letter to be read to the court.

``I only want proper justice,'' she wrote. ``This attack has tremendously and irreparably damaged my life (and) stopped my tennis career. I was a 19-year-old girl when he stabbed me. He has not been successful in his attempt to kill me, but he has destroyed my life.''

The court was not moved. After spending six months in custody, Parche received a two-year suspended sentence and was freed.

Seles' sentence was for a lifetime.


Henin-Hardenne Eliminates Seles at B&L


AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. - Top-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne won her seventh straight match Friday, defeating Monica Seles 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the Bausch & Lomb Championships.

Henin-Hardenne is seeking her second straight title. Last week, she ended Serena Williams' 21-0 start to the season in the final of the Family Circle Cup. Henin-Hardenne will face Daniela Hantuchova or Elena Dementieva in the semifinals Saturday.

Seles, a two-time champion at Amelia Island, won two matches in her return after a seven-week layoff because of a foot injury. She almost withdrew this week when she woke up Tuesday with a sore neck.

The first set was easy for Henin-Hardenne, but Seles played much better during a second set that lasted nearly an hour. Seles had a chance to break serve and go ahead 4-2, but she overhit a backhand off a second serve.

Tied 3-3, Seles missed an easy volley on game point and gave up the break. Serving while ahead 5-4, Henin-Hardenne saved a break point with a 113 mph ace. She followed with a 114 mph ace and closed out the match with a 112 mph service winner.

Henin-Hardenne finished with eight aces.


Seles into quarters in Amelia Island


The sixth-seeded Seles, seeing her first action in nearly two months, breezed past 11th-seeded Frenchwoman Nathalie Dechy 6-1, 6-2 to set up a quarterfinal clash with diminutive world No. 4 Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne.

The former world No. 1 Seles, who had been sidelined since February with a left foot injury, is a two-time winner of this event, having claimed back-to- back championships in 1999 and 2000.


Victory a pain in the neck for Seles


AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (AP) -- Her injured foot was the least of the worries for Monica Seles. She also had a nasty crick in her neck that almost ended her comeback before it began.

In her first match after a seven-week layoff, Seles struggled to defeat Anca Barna 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 at the Bausch & Lomb Championships on Wednesday.

This week was supposed to be an opportunity for the sixth-seeded Seles to play on the cushy, green clay at Amelia Island and see how her left foot would respond after a stress fracture in February.

She almost withdrew, however, when she slept weird on her neck Monday night and it seized up on her the next morning. She was able to play because the draw was favorable, and she didn't have her first match until Wednesday.

"I really couldn't move it at all," Seles said. "I couldn't practice, nothing. It was one of those things where you're stuck. You can't look to the left or right."

True to her word, she barely moved her neck during the winner's news conference. Before that, in the first set of her match, she needed a timeout for a trainer to come to the court and massage out some of the pain.

Seles said she felt lucky to win that close tiebreaker -- "Either player can win at 5-all," she said -- and is glad she'll get some more chances to test the foot before the meat of the clay-court season begins. The French Open starts May 26.

"Instead of going over to Europe and saying, 'Gee, my foot is not doing too good,' I really enjoy Amelia Island, so I thought this would be the perfect combination," Seles said. "I just really came down here wanting to get some matches and have a good time."

Seles, who won here in 1999 and 2000, will play a third-round match Thursday against 10th-seeded Nathalie Dechy, who defeated Maria Vento-Kabchi 7-5, 4-6, 7-5.


Serena steals show vs. Seles


It may have been only an exhibition, but Serena Williams dazzled a sold-out crowd at the Naples Bath & Tennis Club on Saturday and proved why she is the No. 1 women's player in the world. With a combination of power, speed, finesse and desire, the 21-year-old — undefeated in 2003 — topped Monica Seles, 6-4, 6-4 in the JPMorgan Chase Tennis Challenge.

It may have been only an exhibition, but Serena Williams dazzled a sold-out crowd at the Naples Bath & Tennis Club on Saturday and proved why she is the No. 1 women's player in the world.

With a combination of power, speed, finesse and desire, the 21-year-old — undefeated in 2003 — topped Monica Seles, 6-4, 6-4 in the JPMorgan Chase Tennis Challenge.

In the doubles portion of the charity exhibition, Williams also came up victorious and in the process, claiming family bragging rights.

She and Jana Novotna needed a tiebreak to defeat sister Venus Williams and Brenda Schultz- McCarthy, 8-7 (8-6).

The real winner on the day was the OWL Foundation, whose founder is Oracene Price, the Williamses' mother. Thanks to the 3,860 spectators and the Gala featuring Roberta Flack, more than $150,000 was raised for the charity, surpassing last year's total when the event was held in Delray Beach.

The foundation helps underprivileged children with academic problems by initiating after-school programs. Some of the proceeds will go to the Education Foundation of Collier County.

After besting Seles, Williams wanted to concentrate on the main objective.

"This one doesn't count," said Williams, who is 17-0 this season including three titles. "It's for the kids, it's for the foundation, it's for learning."

Actually, Williams, who is the reigning champion of all four Grand Slam events, looked lethargic at the start.

The turning point in the match came with the score tied at 3 in the first set. With an enough-is-enough mindset, Williams started matching Seles grunt-for-grunt.

With the first set tied at 4, Williams took control thanks to a couple of delicate drop shots. The 21-year-old was able to break Seles' serve and go on to win the first set, 6-4.

"I had a few double faults there but I was able to bring it up and give a good match for the crowd," said Williams.

The second set was much of the same, including Williams breaking Seles' serve with the score tied at 4. Seles, who has nine career Grand Slam titles, did try to give Williams a workout, running her back and forth across the baseline. Williams, however, was relentless, showing off her athleticism, while giving the sun-baked crowd some thrilling saves.

After entertaining the fans on the court in the singles match, Seles, wanting to rest her injured foot, retired to the official's chair.

Schultz-McCarthy, a seven-time tour winner, filled in as Venus Williams' partner

Compared to a semi-serious singles match, the doubles competition was more like a night at The Improv, with Seles adding much of the levity from her post.

In the beginning, Venus Williams got a little greedy, and tried to steal a point at the net but instead nearly knocked the ball into the stands.

The uncharacteristic move caused both Williams to start laughing hysterically, causing the match to stop for few seconds.

Later, Venus shuffled her feet like a boxer.

She then proceeded to nail Novotna in the left arm with an up-close return.

"This was like a dream come true," said Carlo Migliore of Naples. "To be able to see the best two players in the world. And actually the tennis was pretty good for an exhibition."

The doubles match marked the first time that the sisters have been on the opposite side of the court in doubles competition.

"I usually know what she is thinking and can figure out what she is going to do in advance," Venus Williams said. "It wasn't like it was match point at a Grand Slam. It was fun.


Seles withdraws from Family Circle Cup


CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Monica Seles withdrew from this week's Family Circle Cup because of a stress fracture in her left foot.

Seles, ranked No. 12 in the world, was hurt while practicing in February. She was forced to withdraw from Indian Wells last month, and from the Nasdaq-100 Open in Florida on March 20.

"I had hoped my foot would be fully recovered in time for the Family Circle Cup, but am sorry to say it still does not feel 100 percent," Seles said in a statement.

Seles made it to the final at the tournament in 1997, and the semifinals in 1998 and 2000.


Naples event to have first for Williamses


Tennis has never seen anything like this.

Heck, no sport has ever seen anything like this.

Two sisters, 15 months apart in age, dominating virtually every tournament for two years?

Never happened before.

Two African-American women capturing a combined nine Grand Slam titles in four years?

Never happened before.

Locals will get a chance to view history in the making Saturday when current world No. 1 and No. 2 Serena and Venus Williams play in the JP Morgan Tennis Challenge at Naples Bath & Tennis Club.

Serena will face No. 12-ranked Monica Seles in a singles match at 1 p.m. Then Venus and Jana Novotna will play Serena and Seles in doubles.

The event— originally scheduled for Delray Beach but moved to Naples after the Nuveen Masters decided to cancel its tournament — will benefit the Oracene Williams Learning Foundation.

Oracene Price, Serena and Venus' mother, founded the OWL Foundation, which funds programs that address student learning problems.

The Williamses decided to play in Saturday's event to help their mother's organization.

"My mom has always wanted to help children, even when she was younger," Venus said in a teleconference Wednesday. "She (originally) wanted to be a social worker.

"All her children have grown up now, so she has the opportunity to help. She's proud to live her dream, which is to help others."

Saturday's festivities will start with a singles match, which pits two players who have combined for 14 Grand Slam singles titles.

Monica Seles has won nine Grand Slam titles, the most recent, however, in 1996. Seles has been bothered by a left foot injury lately but is looking forward to playing in Naples, event director Michele Cope said.

Serena enters the match with a 17-0 record this year. She has set a goal of finishing 2003 undefeated, a feat that would be unprecedented.

"I think she has a great chance to do it," Venus said. "Of course, it's not easy. But there have been some unbelievable records in sports. Why not tennis?"

Then Seles and Venus will face Serena and Novotna in doubles. Novotna, currently retired from the sport, won 24 singles titles between 1986 and 1999.

It will mark the first time the Williamses will play each other in doubles.

"I've never played doubles with anyone except Serena," Venus said. "Monica is really a wonderful, nice person. I'm looking forward to playing with her."

Venus said her priority is that the audience sees a good match. But make no mistake, the No. 2 player in the world will come to play.

"My reputation is on the line," Venus said when asked how she will approach the exhibition match. "I worked hard to get to this position but the highlight is Monica and Serena."

The highlight is seeing Serena and Venus playing in Southwest Florida for the first time.

Few will get the chance to see it. Fewer than 300 tickets remained in the 3,860-seat Naples Bath & Tennis stadium as of Wednesday afternoon, Cope said.

Dave Rineberg, Serena and Venus' hitting coach from 1992-99, said locals shouldn't pass up the opportunity.

The duo, he said, will rule tennis for some time.

"For the next five years, they're going to be dominating," Rineberg said. "Everybody is going to have to raise the bar. They already raised the bar, everybody has to catch up.

"But I don't see anybody coming up."


A champion in life


by Frank Deford

She ventures how strange it is that it should have happened to her. After all, nothing like it had ever happened to anyone else in sports. She remembers the strangeness of it, the sudden pain -- or, even more, the curiosity: what exactly is going on? And then, reflexively, she turned and in the instant before he was subdued, she saw his face just as he began to raise the dagger again.

Monica Seles was only 19 when she was stabbed 10 years ago this month in Hamburg, Germany.

Were it not for that terrible, awful, crazy horror, Seles might well have become the greatest female tennis player ever. In the three years leading up to the assault, she had absolutely dominated Steffi Graf, winning eight Grand Slams to her rival's two. That, of course, is why the German lunatic named Gunther Parche stabbed her. He wanted to restore his countrywoman to preeminence.

And, in point of fact, he not only succeeded, but the German courts took more pity on his insanity than on Seles' suffering. Der Spiegel even compared Parche to Samuel of The Old Testament: "The poor man owned nothing sweeter than a lamb. Gunther Parche is even poorer than the man in the bible." Parche never served a day behind bars.

Seles, meanwhile, took months to recuperate physically, and also suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome. And what might have been the cruelest cut of all? Her fellow players almost unanimously voted down a proposal to let her keep her No. 1 ranking. Only Gabriela Sabatini chose humanity over business. "Gabby is a human being," Monica says. "The rest -- they treated it like it was a sprained ankle or something."

When Seles finally did come back after 27 months, she was not the same great player. She struggled with her weight, which dulled her uncanny anticipation and shot-making ability. Worse, her father, her coach, whom she adored, lingered with cancer for years before he died in 1998. And yet Seles has stayed in the game, content to be an opponent, a quarterfinalist, a ghost of what might have been.

But why not, she asks. She simply loves playing. Tennis is a joy to her. That's all. I've never met a champion who is less competitive. Her trophies are in the garage, boxed up. Once -- imagine this -- she told me that her fondest recollections were of exhibitions because "everybody is on their best behavior there." Oh, sure, of course she wants to win. But she does not envision herself jumping the net. What is your tennis dream? I asked her once.

Shyly, laughing at herself, she said: "My dream is to be Suzanne Lenglen" -- the glamorous, graceful French star of the 1920s -- "to be like Suzanne, flying through the air, hitting a volley, both feet off the ground, flying."

Seles never complains, never argues, never alibis. Grace attends her. She is a bright figure of humility among foggy egos. She speaks to the new kids on tour, never forgetting that she too was once a silly, giggly little thing whom older players spurned. There is no one who does not like her a lot. No, she did not need to almost be killed, she did not need to lose her greatness to a madman's knife, to become the full, fine person that she is. But we can say that 10 years removed from hell, Monica Seles has won with a good, brave heart far more than she ever did with a tennis racket.

In her own simple words of praise, she's a human being.


Novotna joins tennis challenge tourney


As the countdown to Saturday's JP Morgan Chase Tennis Challenge at the Naples Bath & Tennis Club continues, the fourth player to participate in the charity exhibition was confirmed on Sunday. Jana Novotna, the 34-year-old from the Czech Republic who claimed 24 singles titles between 1986 and 1999, will join in for doubles. As the countdown to Saturday's JP Morgan Chase Tennis Challenge at the Naples Bath & Tennis Club continues, the fourth player to participate in the charity exhibition was confirmed on Sunday.

Jana Novotna, the 34-year-old from the Czech Republic who claimed 24 singles titles between 1986 and 1999, will join in for doubles.

Novotna currently is retired from active tennis. She wasn't able to recover from injuries she sustained during the 1999 French Open.

In the doubles, Novotna will hook up with Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Monica Seles in the afternoon affair benefiting the OWL Foundation started by Oracene Price, the mother of the world's No. 1 and No. 2-ranked Williams sisters.

Serena Williams will go against Seles in the singles exhbition that will lead up to the doubles.

Novotna, who turned professional on Feb. 26, 1987, is perhaps best known for her championship run in the 1998 Wimbledon singles. She triumphed in the finals over Nathalie Tauziat 6-4, 7-6.

Novotna reached the Wimbledon finals two other times, bowing in 1997 to Martina Hingis 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in 1997 and losing to Steffi Graf 7-6, 1-6, 6-4 in 1993.

A portion of the proceeds of Saturday's festivities will go to the Education Foundation of Collier County.

A temporary stadium capable of seating 4,000 is to be erected this week at the NBTC on Airport-Pulling Road.

In addition to morning clinics and the afternoon exhibitions, there will be an evening gala at the Naples Bath & Tennis Club headling entertainer Roberta Flack.

Tickets for the JP Morgan Chase Tennis Challenge are behind handled by Ticketmaster at 239-334-3309.


Foot injury forces Seles out at Key Biscayne


KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) -- Two-time champion Monica Seles withdrew from the Nasdaq-100 Open on Friday, saying she hasn't fully recovered from a stress fracture in her left foot. Seles was hurt while practicing last month. She said she didn't want to rush her return from the injury, which also forced her to miss Indian Wells this month. ``I'm really disappointed,'' she said. ``I'm sad that I had to pull out today, but it is the best I can do for my health.'' The 10th-seeded Seles, who won the tournament in 1990 and 1991, withdrew shortly before her opening match. She was replaced in the draw by Evie Dominikovic.


Seles: security `insufficient'


Ten years after she was stabbed by a fan during a changeover, Monica Seles said security at WTA events is ``insufficient.''

While Seles did not say whether security has increased or decreased since her 1993 incident, she did say she is still concerned with access around match and practice sessions.

''In a lot of ways, our accessibility to people to get to us on site, in matches, after matches,'' she said. ``And just not me. Any of the higher-profile players.''

Tournament director Adam Barrett said security for players is determined on a case-to-case basis.

''If they are concerned, we will provide more security for them,'' he said.

Security guards are stationed around the Tennis Center at Crandon Park, from the entrance to the facility to the player lounges.

Barrett said the same amount of security is given to players on the WTA and ATP, the men's tour.

Andy Roddick said he is not at all concerned with security, but he understands Seles' concerns.

''Obviously, I don't think we can have the perspective about it that Monica has,'' Roddick said.

At a 1993 tournament in Hamburg, Seles was stabbed by German fan Guenter Parche and did not play for more than two years.

Seles said she believes tennis players are more accessible than any other athletes, often walking through crowds to reach practice courts.

Some players go unnoticed. More notable players are easily recognizable.

''That's why I say it depends,'' Seles said. ``I think, on the personality, on what day you hit it, too, and in your own way how you deal with people, too.''


Seles Withdraws from Pacific Life Open


INDIAN WELLS, CA – No. 7 seed Monica Seles has been forced to withdraw from this week's US$2.1 million Pacific Life Open, due to a left foot injury.

Seles, ranked No. 10 in the world, has been bothered by a left foot injury she sustained over the weekend while practicing at her home in Sarasota.

Seles was due to make her seventh appearance in the Pacific Life Open. She won the title in 1992 and most recently, reached the semi-finals last year before falling to Martina Hingis. Her next scheduled event is the NASDAQ-100 Open in Miami (17 – 26 March).

"I'm really disappointed I won't be able to make it to Indian Wells this year," Seles said. "It's such a wonderful tournament and I was looking forward to the Pacific Life Open after reaching the semi-finals last year. "

"I've had some great matches in Indian Wells and some very fond memories, especially winning the title in 1992," said Seles.

Sarah Taylor now moves into the main draw. Anastasia Myskina (RUS #11) becomes the No. 7 seed and all seeds following Myskina move up one spot.


Henin-Hardenne wins Dubai Open


Top seed Justine Henin-Hardenne saved a match point on her way to beating Monica Seles 4-6 7-6 7-5 to win the seventh title of her career at the Dubai Open on Saturday. 

There was little between the players throughout the two hour 45-minute battle, although it was fourth-seeded American Seles who held the slightest advantage. 

Her pounding groundstrokes and fine placement played a major part in her challenge, but her willingness to come to the net and volley was only partially successful. 

Belgium's Henin-Hardenne, winning her title since October, threatened with both a penetrating backhand and forehand, but she was let down at sometimes crucial stages by a serve that generated 12 double-faults. 

The shortcomings of both players, however, were easily overshadowed by the fiercely competitive contest. They produced countless thrilling rallies of the highest quality, and the outcome remained in the balance until the final point. 

"It was an unbelievable match," said Henin-Hardenne. "Physically it was hard for me at the end of the first set, beginning of the second. 

"I was tired from yesterday and it was hard for me to play the game I like to play. At the second set, when I had to because I had a match point against me, I played good tennis. Then it was a great third set. On the important points I played well." 

It was Seles who took the first set by winning the final four games, assisted by two double-faults from her Belgian opponent at 5-4. In the second set, a fourth double-fault gave Seles a break to lead 3-1, but she immediately dropped her own serve to love. 
The American's best chance of victory came when she led 5-4, and two consecutive double-faults and a forced backhand error gave Seles a match point. But a long rally which ended in a netted double-handed backhand brought the score to deuce, and Henin-Hardenne dominated the tiebreak. 

In the deciding set, it was Seles who struggled but then served for the match. She saved a break point with Henin-Hardenne leading 3-2, recovered from 0-40 to hold for 4-4, and then broke to lead 5-4 when the Belgian struck her 12th double-fault. 

But Henin-Hardenne rose to the challenge, broke Seles to level for 5-5, and then broke again for the match, closing out the victory on her fourth match point.


Seles reaches her 85th final


FORMER world number one Monica Seles reached the 85th final of her career as Amelie Mauresmo's title defence came to a premature end in the $US585,000 ($A980,720.87) Dubai Open overnight.

The Frenchwoman has only just returned after four months on the sidelines with a career-threatening knee injury, and has now been forced to call it a day with a pulled muscle in the right thigh.

The score was 2-2 in the second set, Seles having won the first 6-3.

"The adductor (muscle) was already tight from the previous day, and it got so that I couldn't give a hundred percent on each shot," said Mauresmo.

"I am disappointed to have lost my title particularly as I felt I was playing well.

"This is two injuries in two weeks because in Paris a fortnight ago I hurt the other one (in the other thigh).

"But the doctor told me that this can happen when you come back after months away from competition, that you often have muscle problems."

Mauresmo will return to Paris for what she hopes will be a quick check on the adductor muscle problems before heading off to the United States for the Indian Wells tournament in California.

Seles, who had coped well with a swirling wind which created a sandy, hazy atmosphere and a tugging, nagging uncertainty with any shot requiring much backswing, also had some assistance in establishing her lead.

The crucial moments came when the defending champion served three double faults to go 2-4 down, two of which took a net cord and lurched eccentrically in the breeze into the tramlines.

Later Mauresmo left the court for six minutes to receive treatment to the injury but it did little good.

"It was so close in the first set so it was a shame it finished in that way," Seles said.

"However the good thing is that I didn't make too many errors in the wind, and that I am looking forward to my first final here."

That will be against the top-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne, who won a fine match in difficult conditions against Jennifer Capriati 7-5 4-6 6-4, ending the American's comeback tournament after an eye operation Henin had a little more consistency and slightly better concentration.

She also produced a wonderfully aggressive finish, consolidating her final set break with two successive aces to reach 5-3 and twice serving and volleying while closing out the match.

However Capriati fought well right to the end, earning a break-back point in the last game and leaving the tournament feeling she had re-established herself in the leading handful of players.

"I won't be discouraged by this loss," said Capriati. "I'm moving well and I just need to get into slightly better shape.

"That will help me not to feel tired and also help with the concentration."

The former Australian and French Open champion plans to play next at Indian Wells and Key Biscayne next month.


Seles In Dubai Final After Mauresmo Retires Injured


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (Reuters) - Monica Seles advanced to her second final of the year on Friday when defending champion Amelie Mauresmo was forced to retire from the Dubai Open with a right thigh injury.

Second seeded Mauresmo, who was playing only her second tournament in four months after suffering a cartilage injury in her right knee, had to withdraw from the Antwerp tournament last week with a left abductor injury. This time it was her right.

"I aggravated the abductor during the match," she said. "The game before I left the court, I really felt something strong. I tried having some more tape, but it didn't work.

"There is no point in staying on the court if you can't play. I couldn't really move the way I like to move and I didn't want to aggravate the situation.

"But it's very disappointing, and not just giving up the title. It was a good match and she was playing good tennis. She was very aggressive and taking the ball early and returning well."

The injury was not entirely a surprise, following a medical opinion she received after injuring her left abductor muscle while reaching the Paris indoor Open final two weeks ago.

"The doctor told me when I had it on the other side that it often happens when you come back after a few months without competition, that you have muscle problems here and there," she said.

"I will stop tomorrow in Paris and try to see the doctor and make sure I handle this well before going to America."

The semi-final had been delicately balanced until Mauresmo's 63rd-minute retirement. Playing in blustery and humid conditions, it was fourth-seeded Seles who impressed with her fierce groundstrokes, but her French opponent countered with some spectacular backhands.

"It's definitely not the way you like to win a match," said Seles, who lost to Mauresmo when they last played at the same stage last year.

"We were so close in that first set. She's tough to play because she doesn't give you the same ball. You have to keep moving and I'm just really happy that I stayed focused out there.

"There were some great points. I just think I played well generally. I wasn't making to many unforced errors, and just kept the ball in play."


Seles, Mauresmo Reach Dubai Semifinals


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Monica Seles defeated Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan 6-1, 7-5 Thursday to reach the semifinals of the Dubai Open.

Seles will play defending champion Amelie Mauresmo of France on Friday. Mauresmo beat Lina Krasnoroutskaya of Russia 6-2, 6-4.

After an easy first set, Seles had to work hard to avoid a tiebreaker in the second. Serving for the match at 5-4, Tulyaganova broke her serve to even the set. But Seles broke back and held serve to take the match.

"I got a little bit tight out there and am happy to get it done," Seles said.

Mauresmo, coming off a three-set victory over Petra Mandula of Hungary on Wednesday night, dominated her quarterfinal match from the start.

"I played much better today," Mauresmo said. "I was very relaxed after last night's match. It is the first time we played each other, but I handled it well."


Seles cruises into quarters


Fourth seed Monica Seles of the US lived up to expectations to cruise to a 6-3, 6-2 win over Francesca Schiavone to become the first one to enter the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open at the Dubai Tennis Stadium yesterday.

Seles, a semifinalist here last year before falling to eventual winner Amelie Mauresmo, looked to be in command as she waited for a double fault from her Italian opponent in the eighth game to go clear 5-3. Seles then kept her serve to wrap up the set 6-3 in less than half an hour.

The initial part of the second set went very much the same as the first with both players tied 2-2. But a hasty forehand into the net cost Schiavone dear as Seles went ahead 3-2 and never looked back after that as she held serve to lead 4-2.

Not one to relax, Seles broke Schiavone yet again and then held serve to win the set 6-2 in exactly one hour and enter the quarter-finals.

"She's a pretty tricky customer," Seles said of her Italian opponent.

"I'm still not at my best, but I think I was much steadier in the later part of the game and that eventually helped me a bit," the fourth seeded player said.

Seles will now await the winner of the second round match between Magdalena Maleeva and Iroda Tulyaganova.


Seles Eases Into Last Eight in Dubai


DUBAI (Reuters) - Monica Seles reached the quarter-finals of the Dubai Open Tuesday, shrugging aside a troublesome ankle to beat Italy's Francesca Schiavone 6-3 6-2.

Having broken to lead 2-0 with the aid of several acutely angled groundstrokes, Seles then lost the next 10 points.

But she settled again, broke to lead 5-4 when Schiavone double-faulted and served out for the first set.

In the second set, although fourth-seeded Seles failed to convert a break point at 1-1, she forced a baseline error to break for 3-2 and struck a fierce crosscourt backhand winner to break again for 5-2.

"I'm not playing my best tennis of my career, so I'm just happy to win today," she said.

"I've been making a lot of unforced errors and just trying to do my best. I still feel a little bit of pain on the ankle I injured in Australia."

Earlier in the day, strong winds made it difficult for Anastasia Myskina as she celebrated her first match as a member of the world's top 10 by beating fellow Russian Dinara Safina 6-4 6-3.

Both struggled to find consistency, but it was the 16-year-old sister of Marat Safin who held the early advantage.

She broke serve in the first game, but Myskina levelled at 3-3. Although Safina broke again with a forehand volley, Myskina responded by snatching the next three games and the set.


Seles visits Majlis Art Gallery


Nine-time Grand Slam winner Monica Seles took a break from her busy build-up to the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open by visiting a local art gallery yesterday.

Seles visited the Majlis Art Gallery in Dubai and was given a guided tour to view both local and international work that is currently on display.

The 29 year-old American said; "I am very impressed by the art here, I like art and this is a wonderful authentic gallery showcasing a variety of both local and international art."

Colm McLoughlin, Managing Director of tournament owner and organiser Dubai Duty Free, said: "The players really enjoy their time in Dubai and we try to ensure they get to see as much of the city as possible. It is through visits like this that players have the opportunity to escape the constant pressures of playing on the WTA Tour."


Seles still hungry for more


It's the small things in life that keep her going. Tennis, friends and the thought of getting home after every tournament are among some of these small things that keep former top tennis star, Monica Seles hungrier for more on the Tour.

At 29 years, and staring at two similar realities – that of being servile for 10 years after the infamous stabbing by a stalker in Hamburg in April, to turning the age wheel to 30 in December – the former world No.1 still has it all to turn to the magical double figure of grand slams.

"Other than enjoying the game, I still have a lot of passion for tennis," Seles told the Gulf News before play started on the opening day of the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open.

"If you ask me, I can say goodbye to the game tomorrow, or say immediately after this tournament. But I know I have it in me to go on and put in some hard work and make the sacrifices. In tennis, there is no middle ground," Seles said.

"I have a lot of passion for the game, and I'm only 29. Maybe I can win some more grand slams… the U.S. Open, the French Open, the Australian Open and hopefully Wimbledon as well," she smiled.

"Tennis is something I've done all my life. It's just that I enjoy playing the game and I love it," she stated in answer to a question if life for her is starting at 30.

"Nothing has changed for me. I haven't even bought a car for myself. Maybe the only thing that is different is that I live in a better house (in Florida). I am still the same," Seles said.

Barring Wimbledon, Seles has all the other grand slams crown on her shelf. "But I will keep trying. Secondly, I enjoy being in London. The place is so nice and the people, too, do not get in your way. Wimbledon has always been on my list and I doubt it will change," Seles said.

Reverting to more immediate goals, Seles said she hoped to strike good form in the Dubai competition. "Hope I can play better tennis here than what I did in Doha last week (She lost in the second round there). But before this week, I had a good result in Tokyo. I hope to carry this form here in Dubai," Seles hoped.

Being in Dubai is like having a mini holiday for the ninth ranked player on the WTA. "I simply love it here. My mum loves it, too. The place is so good and being here is like planning a mini holiday. Other than the tennis, it's a good break," Seles said.

Speaking about the top tennis players presently on the tour, Seles said: "It was the same when Navratilova dominated in the 80s, then Steffi came along, then I and then Martina (Hingis). Now it's the turn of Venus and Serena (Williams). They are playing better tennis right now and they've contributed so much to the game," Seles admitted.


Mental pain remains for Seles


Monica Seles was asked yesterday about her approaching "10-year anniversary". The giggling stopped. In 1993 Gunther Parche invaded a Hamburg tennis court and stabbed Seles in her left shoulder-blade.

A decade on, the mental pain remains. Seles still will not return to Germany and remains angry that Parche, who pleaded insanity and received a suspended two-year sentence, was not put behind bars.

"It's just that when someone does that to me, and doesn't spend one day in jail, I don't want to go back," said Seles, who was furious with the WTA in 2001 when they organised their season-ending championships in Munich without consulting her.

"You never think never, but it's hard because of what happened. I'm pretty strong with principles. I just feel that justice wasn't done."

The 29-year-old American stressed that she isn't anti-German. Andreas Bibek, a "gentleman" from Hamburg, has been her hitting partner this week at the Dubai Women's Open, where she is seeded fourth and projected to meet Amelie Mauresmo in the semi-finals.

"People have taken it that I'm against Germany, but the gentleman here, my hitting partner, he's from Hamburg, so it's not anything like that," she said. "Maybe down the road it will change."

On April 30, 1993, Parche bypassed security at the Hamburg Open and attacked the teenager, who was sitting at the chair during a changeover. The loner, an unemployed lathe operator, wanted to rid the tennis scene of Seles and allow his obsession, Steffi Graf, to get back to the world No 1 spot. It worked.

Seles, who had won eight of the 11 Grand Slams she contested between May 1990 and January 1993, was scarred mentally more than physically and did not play again for 27 months. The court was where she had felt the safest - and she had been stabbed in the back.

Depression, panic attacks and an over-eating disorder followed, but Seles maintained yesterday that the knife attack had not warped her personality. "No, I'm still the same little old me," she said. "I've got the same friends that I had, same everything - the only thing that has changed is that I have a nicer house. But, besides that, the same. That's what has kept me grounded mentally."

Seles, who added her ninth major at the 1996 Australian Open, but has never recovered the snap of the "before" years, has often been asked when she will quit, but continues to play tennis for the sole reason that it makes her happy.

"I think I'd want a new challenge at some point. Right now I'm happy, but it could stop tomorrow. Some weeks I'm OK, some weeks I struggle," she said.


Mauresmo on course for Seles in Dubai


Defending champion and second seeded Amelie Mauresmo is headed towards a collision course with sixth seed Patty Schnyder.

Meanwhile top seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne is bound to crash into Anastasia Myskina of Russia in a possible quarter-final line-up of the third edition of the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open starting at the Dubai Tennis Stadium tomorrow.

The draw for the tournament, which gives wings to two weeks of unstopped tennis activity in Dubai, was conducted by the WTA Tour Supervisor, Guilia Orlandi in the presence of Dubai Duty Free's Colm McLoughlin, George Horan, new Tournament Director Salah Tahlak and Tournament Referee Alan Mills yesterday evening.

"We are pleased to welcome four of the top 10 and eight of the top 20 players on the tour,' McLoughlin said in his welcome remarks. Gracing the event - voted by the players as the best tournament of the year - for the first time are Jennifer Capriati and the legendary Martina Navratilova.

The draw is well spread out and has a lot of depth as far as the quality of the players go. Henin-Hardenne and Capriati occupy the top half of the draw, while the lower is anchored by Monica Seles and defending champion Mauresmo.

McLoughlin said he was pleased with the recognition the tournament has been attracting fro some of the best players in the world. "We don't mind who goes on to win the title, as long as we are assured of some good games," he joked.


Krasnoroutskaya upsets Seles in Qatar Open


Russian wild-card entry Lina Krasnoroutskaya shocked top seed and defending champion Monica Seles 7-5 7-5 to reach the quarter-finals of the Qatar Open on Wednesday.

The world number 96 made the good use of her powerful serve and forehand to overcome the ninth-ranked American in their second round encounter.

The 18-year-old Russian played some terrific shots and avenged her loss to Seles at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo earlier this month.

"I'm quite happy with the way I played and it is one of the most memorable wins in my career. I have been able to hit the ball hard and my serve also held good," the Russian said.

For Seles, it was a bad day at the office but she gave her opponent credit for the win.

"It just wasn't my day. I had problems with my serve and groundstrokes... Lina played very well and she kept me under pressure," she said.

Joining Krasnoroutskaya in the last eight were second seed Anastasia Myskina of Russia, Bulgarian third seed Magdalena Maleeva and Dinara Safina of Russia who all registered straight-set victories.

Myskina, a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open last month and world ranked number 11 defeated Frenchwoman Mary Pierce 7-5 6-4.

Maleeva wasted little time in her match, easing past Slovakia's Martina Sucha 6-4 6-2 in 80 minutes while Safina beat compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4 6-3.


The Bulgarian played an almost flawless game, often using her powerful backhand shots to reel off winners.

She broke Sucha in the second, fourth, eighth and tenth games to win the first set with a good measure of comfort.

Sucha played well in patches, breaking Maleeva in the fifth and seventh games, but she lacked the consistency to put pressure on her opponent.

Games went with serves in the second set until Maleeva, leading 3-2, moved up a gear and broke Sucha in the sixth and eighth games to wrap up the set and the match.

Maleeva said that although she had won her two previous meetings with Sucha, she never underestimated her opponent.

"I was determined to play well from the start and did well on the big points," Maleeva said.

The Bulgarian now awaits the winner of the match between Russia's Elena Likhovtseva and Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan.

"Whether it's Elena or Iroda, I'll have to play well... it's going to be a tough match," she added.

Pierce was undone by Myskina's powerful passing shots and intelligent use of angles.

However, the Frenchwoman did show some of the form that once elevated her into the world's Top 10 when she battled back to 5-5 after trailing 1-4 in the opening set.

Myskina then produced some superb shots to take the set in great style, with a double-handed backhand down the line.

The Frenchwoman matched Myskina shot-for-shot in the second set until the score reached 4-4, even saving a breakpoint with a blistering volley in the third game.

But Myskina picked up the pace when it mattered, breaking Pierce in the ninth game and holding her on serve to seal the victory.


Seles primed to defend her Qatar title


American Monica Seles was itching to launch her campaign for a second successive WTA Qatar Open title this week in this highly strung city which hosts one of the biggest American airbases in the Persian Gulf.

Al-Udeid air base - just a few kilometres away from the Khalifa Tennis Complex - is likely to be the nerve centre of any American-led attack on Iraq.

But short of a war, nothing seems to have the potential to deter the top seeded Seles, ranked No 9 in the world, from strutting her stuff in the 170,000-dollar event which also features another American great, Martina Navratilova, in the doubles.

Seles was an early bird in Doha after a small break in Dubai following her recent three-set loss to compatriot Lindsay Davenport in the final of the Tokyo Pan-Pacific Open.

"I'm not worried about the war. I'm here to play tennis and defend my title," said Seles.

Navratilova was expected to fly in early Sunday. Importantly, the US embassy in Doha has already issued an advisory appealing to all Americans here to be ready to leave at short notice.

Standing between the business-like Seles and an encore are the likes of second seed Russian Anastasia Myskina, Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria and last year's runner-up Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand.

Fading stars Frenchwoman Mary Pierce, a two-time Grand Slam winner, and 1994 Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez of Spain will also be trying their luck in what happens to be the third edition of the tournament. The now-retired Martina Hingis lifted the maiden trophy in 2001.

Nine-time Grand Slam winner Seles will be bidding to add to her bulging kitty of 53 singles titles and it looks like the draw will aid the American in her designs. She has a clear path right up to the quarter-finals where, if the formbook is not ruffled, Martinez will be waiting for her.

Exciting tennis can be expected from the fast improving Myskina who reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open. Last year, the 22-year-old Russian, ranked No 11, fell in the last eight and will be eager to make amends.

She is likely to meet Pierce as early as in the second round.

Pierce played here but once, in the inaugural tournament, and crashed out in the opening round while 1996 Wimbledon champion Martinez will be seen in action for the first time.

Seles named Tanasugarn and Myskina as the players to watch out for. The year started on a bleak note for third-seed Bulgarian Maleeva with an Australian Open third round loss and a second round upset in Tokyo and she will be looking to add to her collection of nine singles titles.

The tournament also boasts two of the youngest winners on the Tour last year in Angelique Widjaja of Indonesia and Russian Dinara Safina. Hard-hitting Uzbek Iroda Tulyaganova is just one of the several players in the 32-woman field capable of causing a flutter or two and giving the favourites a run for their money.

The winner goes home 27,000 dollar richer while the runner-up gets 14,500 dollars for her efforts.


Hingis says she's finished


FORMER world No.1 Martina Hingis has all but announced her retirement from tennis.

The 22-year-old Swiss star told l'Equipe sports daily today she had no intention of returning to the women's circuit she dominated from 1997 to 2000 when she won five Grand Slam singles crowns and eight doubles titles.

"I have been in the game too long to know what it takes to get to the top and I'm no longer capable of it," she said.

"When you have been No.1 for four years you cannot be satisfied with anything less. And when you can't compete with the best ... No it's not possible to envisage a comeback.

"There's no point in looking back. I've got a great life ahead of me."

Hingis is recovering from further surgery on damaged ankle ligaments.

An operation last year caused her to miss the French Open and Wimbledon but she returned for the US Open where she lost to Monica Seles in the third round.

Her last match was at Filderstadt in Germany on October 10 last year when she was beaten by Russia's Elena Dementieva.

She then called a halt to her season and pulled out of the year's first Grand Slam event, the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Hingis says no-one can currently match the Williams sisters Venus and Serena.

"The only one is Kim Clijsters. She has the strength and the talent," she said when asked what she felt when Serena Williams won her fourth successive Grand Slam tournament at Melbourne last month.

"But Serena is the best player in the world at the moment, there's no question about it."

Hingis, born in Slovakia, was christened Martina by her tennis-loving mother after Martina Navratilova.

He mother brought her to Switzerland when she was eight.

She won 40 WTA tournaments, three successive Australian Opens, from 1997 to 1999, and Wimbledon and the US Open in 1997.

That was the year she missed a Grand Slam when she lost to Iva Majoli in the French Open final.

She became world No.1 at 16 and held the ranking for 209 weeks.

She has not won a major title since the Australian Open in 1999, losing the 2002 final in Melbourne in suffocating heat to Jennifer Capriati. Her last tournament win was in Tokyo in February, 2002.

She was not the most popular player on the circuit and threw a famous tantrum when losing the 1999 French Open final to Steffi Graf.

Her career earnings totalled $US18,344,660.


Mark McCormack lies in coma


Mark McCormack, the man who virtually invented sports management, remains in a coma in a New York hospital three weeks after going into cardiac arrest.

The 72-year-old, whose firm, International Management Group, have represented most of the big names from Jackie Stewart to Tiger Woods, is reported to have been taken ill after being given an anaesthetic at a dermatologist's office on Jan 16.

The company have referred questions to a public relations firm in Los Angeles. McCormack's three grown-up children from a previous marriage, Breck, Todd and Leslie, issued a release that said: "His blood pressure and heart rhythm are stable, although he has yet to regain consciousness."

McCormack also has a five-year-old daughter, Maggie, from his current marriage with the former tennis star Betsy Nagelsen.

Known as The Kingmaker and the Global Godfather, McCormack has been chosen several times as the most powerful man in sport by various American publications.

IMG, who are based in Cleveland, Ohio, have 85 offices in 33 countries, employ 3,000 people and represent Monica Seles & Venus Williams, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Hall of Fame gridiron footballer Joe Montana and dozens of others.

A 1954 graduate of Yale Law School and a golfer skilled enough to have played in a US Amateur Championship with Arnold Palmer, he persuaded Palmer to become his client in 1960, telling him that athletes and sportsmen could earn money from their fame and recognition value.

The agreement was made with nothing more than a handshake. "Mark has never broken the faith of that handshake," Palmer said later. "That meant a lot to me."

After Palmer, McCormack signed Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, giving him the three most important golfers of the 1960s and early 1970s. Television turned them - and him - into millionaires.

In the UK he has negotiated television packages for the Wimbledon Championships and was known for many years for his regular commentating stints during BBC coverage of the Open Championship.

Obsessed with success, McCormack has been asked a number of times why he did not slow down. "People retire to do what I do every day. To play tennis with Monica Seles or golf with Arnold Palmer. To go to Wimbledon or the Olympics and be treated like a king, to write books, make speeches. As long as I can contribute, I'll be around."

In 2001 the US PGA awarded McCormack their distinguished service award, given to those who have made an exceptional impact on golf.

IMG's operations continue to be run under the direction of Bob Kain, president of IMG North and South America, and Alastair Johnson, president of IMG International. Executives have refused to speculate on McCormack's chances of recovery, but the presumption is that the longer he remains in a coma the poorer his prognosis.


Davenport overpowers Seles in Pan Pacific final


(02-01) 23:51 PST TOKYO (AP) --

Lindsay Davenport won her first title since returning from a serious knee injury, overpowering Monica Seles 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-2 on Sunday in the Pan Pacific Open.

"I haven't played much in the past year," said Davenport, the former top-ranked player who had surgery on her right knee a year ago. "I have a good opportunity over the next few months and my ranking can only go up. I hope to be in the top five by Wimbledon."

The third-seeded Davenport, No. 10 in the rankings, relied on a booming serve and solid groundstrokes to beat the top-seeded Seles in 1 hour, 43 minutes.

"I think losing the first set was a big wakeup call for me," said Davenport, also the Pan Pacific winner in 1998 and 2001. "The last two sets were some of the best tennis I've played in years."

After dropping the first set in a tiebreaker, Davenport jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second set and then reeled off three straight aces to serve it out.

"My serve was a big part of it," said Davenport, 10th in the WTA rankings. "Monica is one of the best returners in the game and I knew I had to serve well to win."

Davenport broke Seles three times in the final set before closing out the match with an ace, her 16th of the day at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

"I started getting a lot of hard deep returns," Davenport said. "And that allowed me to break her in the last two sets."

As Davenport got stronger, Seles struggled with her game and had trouble keeping up with Davenport's serve.

"She places her serve very well," Seles said. "And on this surface it becomes exaggerated because it's very fast."

Seles, also the runner-up last year to Martina Hingis, had a chance to get back in the match in the third set, but was broken in the fifth game.

"Lindsay picked up her game and my serve went away," Seles said. "I tried to hold serve in the last set but when she broke me the second time to go up 3-2, I knew I was pretty much out of the match."

Seles, who bowed out of the Australian Open in the second round after injuring her ankle, is 3-10 against Davenport.


Davenport claims title after win against Seles


Lindsay Davenport claimed her first title in 15 months when she downed fellow former world number one Monica Seles in the Pan Pacific Open tennis final on Sunday.

Davenport fired 16 aces on her way to a 6-7 (6/8), 6-1, 6-2 victory over her ninth-ranked compatriot to reclaim the Tokyo indoor trophy she won in 1998 and 2001.

The victory is expected to move the 26-year-old American up to eighth in the world.

"It's great to be able to come back and play a higher level of tennis... It was a tough year last year with knee surgery and I wasn't playing for about seven months, I knew it would take a lot to get back," she said.

Seles overcame an early service break and then came back from three mini-breaks in the tie-breaker before saving one set point to take the first set.

But Davenport stood firm on her serve and chalked up a 5-0 lead in the second set.

Seles tenaciously saved four set points in the sixth game and another in the following game, only to see Davenport win the set with three aces.

Seles again came back from a break down to tie it at 2-2 in the third set, but serving was critical as Davenport added three aces and three service-return winners before finishing it off with her 16th ace.

"I feel really happy, it's always great to win a tournament and beat a player like Monica and I'm just happy with the way I played in the last two sets," said Davenport.

"I was able to get better as the match went on, and it was still a very close match, but it's great to win here in Tokyo again.

"It was a very tough match. With this court being very fast, it's important to serve well and I think in the first set we both were serving well, but Monica is probably the best returner, so I knew I had to serve very well today and I think I did that," added Davenport

Davenport stretched her record against Seles to 10 wins against three defeats, avenging her loss in their previous meeting in November at the Tour Championships where she let slip seven match points.

It was Davenport's 38th career title and the first since surgery on her right knee a year ago. Her last victory was at Linz, Austria, in October 2001.

Davenport, who missed the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon last season, returned to the Tour in July to reach the US Open semi-finals and finals at Los Angeles, New Haven, Moscow and Zurich.

She reached the final at Sydney in her season-opener last month to climb back into the top 10.

With her victory on Sunday, which brought her the winner's check of $189,000, Davenport is expected to move up to eighth in the world rankings.

Seles, losing finalist to Martina Hingis of Switzerland last year, had to be satisfied with the $102,000 runner-up prize after failing on the fast surface in Japan for the fourth time.


Seles to Face Davenport in Pan Pacific Final


TOKYO (Reuters) - A dogged Monica Seles fought back from a set and a break down to beat fellow American Chanda Rubin 4-6 6-4 6-2 on Saturday, setting up a clash with two-times champion Lindsay Davenport in the Pan Pacific Open final.

Davenport also survived a scare against Lisa Raymond in another all-American semi-final, the third seed never really dominating but doing just enough to overcome her doubles partner 3-6 6-1 6-4 at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

The appearance of two former world number ones in the final will come as a huge relief to organizers after Martina Hingis, Jennifer Capriati and Anna Kournikova all pulled out before the start of the $1.3 million event.

Top seed Seles, chasing a first Pan Pacific title, contrived to lose the first set despite holding a 4-1 lead and looked dead and buried when Rubin produced a big forehand to break for 4-3 in the second.

However, that gave Seles the wake-up call she needed and the 29-year-old broke back in the next game with a crunching backhand pass to snuff out any danger of losing to Rubin for the first time in five matches.

Showing no lingering effects from the ankle sprain that contributed to her second-round exit at the Australian Open, Seles leveled the match two games later, firing an unreturnable backhand down the line on her second set point.

The momentum now firmly on her side, she stepped up the pressure in the third set and Rubin cracked in the fourth game, dumping a forehand into the net to give Seles a 3-1 lead.


The nine-times grand slam winner, runner-up to Hingis here last year, was in total control thereafter, wrapping up proceedings on her first match point when Rubin mishit a backhand long after one hour 40 minutes.

"I was really struggling inside after losing the first set. But something inside me said 'hang in there' and she didn't play that one game so great and that gave me a chance," said Seles.

"Definitely, I was a little bit lucky to get into a third set."

Davenport, meanwhile, could ill afford to get sentimental against her close friend Raymond, who had upset second seed Jelena Dokic 6-4 6-2 in the quarter-finals on Friday.

Davenport, who beat Hingis to win the Pan Pacific open in 1998 and 2001, lacked any sort of rhythm in the first set but quickly regained her poise to overwhelm Raymond in the second.

The 26-year-old Californian, who had won all 11 previous meetings between the two women, secured the crucial break in the opening game of the final set and never looked in trouble after that.

After closing out with her 11th ace of the semi-final, Davenport will be hoping it is a case of lucky 13 for her on Sunday, having won nine of her 12 matches against Seles.

"Lately, a lot more errors have crept into my game and I know in order to get better I have to get more positive on myself," said Davenport, who missed much of the 2002 season with a knee injury.

"There is a lot of frustration in general with my game but I was happy to pull through a tough match against my best friend."


Seles ousts young Russian


FORMER world No.1 Monica Seles fended off a late surge by Lina Krasnoroutskaya of Russia to reach the semi-finals of the Pan Pacific Open today.

The American top seed double-faulted on a break point to go 2-3 down in the first set but recovered to score a convincing 6-4 6-4 victory.

Krasnoroutskaya, the only qualifier to reach the quarter-finals, threatened to come back from 0-4 down in the second set, hitting an array of hard strokes from the baseline.

But the Russian, ranked 129th in the world against Seles' ninth, made a backhand error to give the American double match point in the 10th game.

Seles cashed in at the second attempt.

"Even though I lost today, I'm very happy with my week coming through qualifying and making the quarter-finals with some good wins," said Krasnoroutskaya, 18, who was ranked 34th two years ago.

"Monica was just too good today. She was moving me around very well."

In tomorrow's semi-finals, Seles will take on fellow American and fourth seed Chanda Rubin, the winner over Sydney Olympic silver medallist Elena Dementieva of Russia 3-6 6-1 6-3 today.

Rubin started the match with a double fault and lost the first set with double fault number two at 3-5 and 0-40.

But Dementieva returned the favour by double-faulting to lose three games in the next two sets.

The 22-year-old crawled back to 3-4 with a service break in the seventh game, but Rubin broke back the following game - after eight deuces - and then served out the match.

"It was a really good match to get through because Elena's a good player and I needed to play very well to beat her today," Rubin said.

"She started very strongly but once I found my rhythm, I felt comfortable."

Dementieva said: "I played a good first set but Chanda raised her game in the second and played really well after that.

"I had my chances to get back to 4-4 in the third set, but I was a little unlucky.

"I think it was a good match for me and I think I played quite well here in Tokyo."


Seles sprain hinders Tokyo progress


Top seed Monica Seles grunted and grimaced her way to a 7-5 5-7 6-1 victory over Ai Sugiyama at the Pan Pacific Open.

The former world number one, who sprained her left ankle during her Australian Open defeat to Czech Klara Koukalova, squandered four match points with Sugiyama serving at 4-5 in the second set.

But Seles, her movement clearly restricted, broke twice before sealing victory on her sixth match point when Sugiyama swatted a forehand return wide.

"Every once in a while I feel pain and obviously I'm not as ready as I would have wanted," said the 29-year-old Seles, a winner of nine grand slam singles titles.

"It's been a tough two weeks after the Australian Open. After not practising much, I was not that comfortable with my game. I just tried to hang in and fight for every point."

Organisers of the $1.3m event are hoping that Seles does not suffer any relapse this week after Martina Hingis, Jennifer Capriati and Anna Kournikova all pulled out with injuries before the start of the tournament.

Meanwhile, fourth seed Chanda Rubin opened with a 6-4 6-0 drubbing of Slovenian Katarina Srebotnik in her first match in Tokyo since 2000.

Former champion Iva Majoli, a first-round loser in Melbourne, quickly got her game back on track with a convincing 6-3 6-3 victory over American Alexandra Stevenson.
In other matches, doubles specialist Lisa Raymond beat Argentine Paola Suarez 6-1 4-6 7-5 while Indonesian Angelique Widjaja defeated wildcard Jeon Mi-ra of South Korea 6-3 6-3 in an all-Asian clash.


Seles advances at Toray Pan Pacific tennis


TOKYO (AP) -- Top-seeded Monica Seles shook off some early rustiness Wednesday before defeating Japan's Ai Sugiyama in three sets in a second-round match at the Toray Pan Pacific tennis tournament.

Seles improved to 10-0 against Sugiyama with a 7-5, 5-7, 6-1 victory in 1 hour, 55 minutes.

``I didn't have enough practice and it's been tough since the Australian Open,'' said Seles, who lost in the second round in Melbourne after injuring her ankle early in a three-set loss to Klara Koukalova.

Wednesday's match against Japan's top player could have been much shorter but Sugiyama fought off four match points and then won the next two games to take the second set 7-5.

``The last time I played Ai was at Wimbledon,'' Seles said. ``I knew she'd be tough here on this surface. She played well in the first two sets and then I got lucky in the third.''

For 28th-ranked Sugiyama, it was another frustrating loss to Seles, who is currently ninth in the WTA rankings.

``I felt I was able to play even with her in the first two sets,'' Sugiyama said. ``In the third she started pushing me harder and that's when I started to make mistakes.''


Seles to play in Naples charity event


Serena Williams, the world's No. 1-ranked women's tennis player, is coming to Naples in early April to play a charity exhibition at the Naples Bath & Tennis Club on Airport-Pulling Road. Williams will be pitted against Monica Seles and the event will be open to the public.

Serena Williams, the world's No. 1-ranked women's tennis player, is coming to Naples in early April to play a charity exhibition at the Naples Bath & Tennis Club on Airport-Pulling Road.

Williams will be pitted against Monica Seles and the event will be open to the public.

A large turnout is expected for the one-day affair and a temporary stadium that will seat 4,000 will be erected on-site at the NBTC.

Members of the Naples Bath & Tennis Club were notified Friday that the benefit would take place on April 5.

The event is being put together by Serena's mother. Full details of the benefit will be revealed in Naples on Feb. 4.

Proceeds will benefit the OWL Foundation. The Oracene Williams Learning Foundation was started to encourage interest in eduction and to fun programs that address learning problems of individual who are experiencing academic failure.

The Foundation's mission is to ensure that every child is treated as an individual and provided the opportunity to learn.

Tickets are not yet for sale.

In addition to the singles exhibition, tentative plans call for Venus Williams to join in for doubles with another player still be be determined.


Seles confirms DDF Open appearance


Tennis legend Monica Seles is to make her second consecutive appearance in the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open, tournament owner and organiser Dubai Duty Free has announced.

Ranked number 7 in the world, Seles is the fifth women's top 10 star to sign up for the Sanex WTA Tour event, joining two-time Wimbledon and US Open champion Venus Williams, 2001 and 2002 Australian Open winner Jennifer Capriati, Wimbledon runner-up Justine Henin-Hardenne and reigning Dubai champion Amelie Mauresmo in one of the strongest fields the tournament has ever had.

In 2002, Seles reached the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open, bowing out to Mauresmo. Clearly exhausted after a campaign that had taken her from Melbourne to Tokyo, Paris and Doha before Dubai, her tank was empty by the time she clashed with the talented Frenchwoman.

This year, however, Seles will arrive in Dubai fresh and fighting fit after a minor injury, a sprained ankle, forced her to drop out in the second round of the Australian Open. Chasing her 10th Grand Slam title in Melbourne, the injury was a disappointment for the American, but her break from the game means she will be hungry for rankings points when she returns to the hard courts of Dubai on February 17th. It will be her second attempt to add Dubai to the 53 titles she has earned during her glittering 15-year career.

Commenting on Seles's decision to play in Dubai, Colm McLoughlin, Managing Director of Dubai Duty Free, said: "At 29 years old Monica is a veteran of the Sanex WTA Tour and one of the greats of the game. Having her return to the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open for a second consecutive year to compete against the likes of Venus Williams and Jennifer Capriati is a tremendous prospect for tennis fans in the Emirates."

Last season, Seles won titles in Doha and Madrid, and beat Venus Williams to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open. She also reached the final in Tokyo, and the semi-finals of Paris, Indian Wells, Miami and Bahia, as well as Dubai.

Climbing to 4 in the world, Seles was a quarter-finalist in the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, marking the first time in 10 years that she reached the quarter-finals or better in all four Grand Slams in a single season.

"Monica is certainly capable of winning the Dubai title, but the line-up is particularly strong this year and to better her performance in 2002, she's going to have to produce some of her best tennis," said McLoughlin.


Injured Seles bows out of Open


By JOHN BROCK, Associated Press Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia - Monica Seles won't be featuring in the second week at the Australian Open for the first time in eight trips to the season-opening Grand Slam.

After beating first-round rival Slovakia's Lubomira Kurhajcova in 6-0, 6-1 in the first round here at Melbourne Park, Seles said she was "at the very happy stage in my career where my body is still letting me play."

Perhaps she spoke too soon.

Four-time champion Seles, seeded to meet top-ranked Serena Williams in the quarterfinals, sprained her left ankle in the third game Thursday against Klara Koukalova and limped out in a 6-7 (6),7-5, 6-3 loss to the Czech, ranked No. 113 and contesting her first Grand Slam.

The 29-year-old Seles said she rolled her left ankle attempting to change direction when she was wrong-footed by Koukalova.

"I was in bad pain, it's an ankle sprain," Seles, seeded sixth, said afterwards. "I knew I was in trouble. I tried to fight it out there, but she was just too good."

After getting treatment from the trainer as she sat on the court, Seles moved to the chairs on the sideline to have the injured ankle strapped and get some painkillers.

She'll have a medical scan Friday to gauge the extent of the damage.

In the meantime, "I just want to get out of the pain, because I've been in it for the past two-and-a-half hours," she told reporters.

She said the Rebound Ace courts at Melbourne Park were "stickier" than other surfaces.

"It surprised me today because it really wasn't hot," she said.

Seles said Koukalova forced her to run and "I was just a step slower. I couldn't change directions."

Koukalova sealed the win with a drop shot, before raising both arms in triumph. On debut at a Grand Slam event, she reached the third round and counted a win over a former No. 1.

"I'm very happy. I couldn't believe I actually won," Koukalova said. "Monica is a top-10 player so it's unbelievable."

The 20-year-old Czech lost in the second round of qualifying here last year. Thursday's win lifts her into the top 100 for the first time, she said.

"I think she was running normally, I don't know," when asked if Seles' injury had made a difference.

The loss was a blow for Seles, who beat Venus Williams in the quarterfinals here last year before losing to Martina Hingis in the semis.

Though not among the main contenders to the Williams sisters, she was expecting to make at least the quarterfinals, something she'd achieved at all seven previous trips to Melbourne.

The last of her Grand Slam titles also came here in 1996, her only major title after returning to the tour following the stabbing incident in April 1993.

Koukalova, whose father is a taxi driver and mother works at a bar, started playing tennis at age seven in Prague. As a kid, she admired tennis great Martina Navratilova, who was also born in Prague but later became a U.S. citizen.


Seles cruises through Melbourne opener


Monica Seles romped to a quickfire victory in her opening match at the Australian Open.

Seles and her opponent, Slovakia's Lubomira Kurhajcova, were kept waiting in the changing rooms due to the over-running of Lleyton Hewitt's match.

But once they got on court, it was over in the blink of an eye as Seles wrapped up a 6-0 6-1 win in 45 minutes.

Seles reeled off nine games before the 19-year-old Slovak held serve. She gave Kurhajcova a few moments to raise her arms in celebration, the only high point of her night, then got straight back to work.

"It was tough. We waited so long for the match and I didn't know what to expect," said Seles, a four-time Australian Open champion.

"She hits it so hard and I'm just happy I played aggressively enough to win in two easy sets."

The American needed just 17 minutes to take the first set in the night session without losing a game, and gave up just one in the next. She hit 21 winners to her rival's six.

Seles said she likes Melbourne and has a good record here, never failing to reach the quarter-finals and claiming almost half of her nine Grand Slam titles down under.

Though not among the main contenders to the Williams sisters, Seles remains confident about her ability.

In the latter stages of her career, the 29-year-old Seles said she was feeling no pressure and that had been "the case for the past three or four years."

"I'm just at the very happy stage in my career where my body is still letting me play, I'm still enjoying working hard and playing some good, solid tennis," she said.

Seles next faces qualifier Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic. She didn't know much about Koukalova, but said she'd "ask around" to find out some information.


Serena hits town but Monica takes centre stage


The state of play in womens tennis as it stands may suggest that Serena Williams stands head and shoulders above the rest, what with her three straight grand slam victories heading into Australian Open 2003, but at Melbourne Park, Monica Seles still holds sway.

So while Williams was sweating it out in steam bath conditions on Court Two on Monday, Seles was enjoying the relative comfort of the centre court at Rod Laver Arena in her first serious workout since arriving in Melbourne.

Williams may be the undisputed queen of the game, but Seles is a four-time champion at Melbourne Park and boasts an awesome 42-3 record since first contesting the Open in 1991.

She might just be the most popular womens player to have played at Melbourne Park and with the start of the tournament still seven days away, was enjoying being the centre of attention.

"Oh, it's great to be back. I love being here and it's great to be injury free," she said, playing down reports of a foot injury suffered while playing a warm-up event in Hong Kong last week.

"I started practicing a lot and when you get back (on the court) it plays up a little bit, but we have great physiotherapists at the WTA so I'll be in good hands this week."

At 29, Seles is truly in the veteran class and her build-up to the Australian Open is deliberately low-key. This is why she has bypassed Sydney's adidas International this week - the traditional tune-up for so many of the women players.

"I think at this stage of my career it's important to take off the week before Melbourne and just rest because the conditions here are tough and they take a toll on your body," she said.

"I had my matches in Hong Kong. If I was 18 I would have played Sydney, but I'm 29 and I have to save all my energy."

The Rebound Ace courts at Melbourne are reported to be faster this year and doubtless, plenty of her colleagues will weigh in with their assessment of the court speed before the championship has ended. Seles herself noted that they appeared a touch faster this year. "But each year is a bit different. I remember one year when they were really fast and everyone complained…I'm really happy with it."

So why the love affair with Rebound Ace? "It bounces a lot higher and you have to adjust your footwork because the ball doesn't come to you; you have to get to the ball...there's so much give for your body, which is great compared to hard courts."

Seles made the semi-finals at Melbourne Park in 2002. She eliminated Venus Williams in three sets in a memorable quarter-final before losing to Hingis in the semis. Hingis lost to Jennifer Capriati in the final and then womens tennis was engulfed by the phenomenon that was Serena Williams. And Seles couldn't help but be a fan.

"Last year Serena was the undisputed champion and was really amazing. If she can do that again this year then all power to her. Very few athletes could do to do it in this competition was great. But on the other hand, it was great to see someone like Kim (Clijsters) beat both of them (Serena and Venus)."

"The great thing about womens tennis is that every year, there are more and more talented players. There are so many girls that are tall and can hit the ball."

But if history teaches a lesson, it is that despite all that, they still won't get the better of Monica Seles in Melbourne.


Monica wins in Hong Kong


Monica Seles outplayed Chanda Rubin to win the Hong Kong Ladies Challenge tennis tournament.

After losing the first set, Seles rallied to break Rubin three times in the second set.

She eventually came through 5-7 6-1 6-2.

Seles said: "The match could have gone either way. We were both hitting the ball very hard.

"It's a fantastic way to get ready for the Australian Open."


Seles, Rubin reach final in Hong Kong


HONG KONG (AP) -- Monica Seles and Chanda Rubin will meet in the final of the Hong Kong Ladies Challenge after straight-set victories Friday.

Seles got past Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-0, while Rubin beat Anastasia Myskina 6-4, 6-3.

``I have to raise my level against Monica,'' Rubin said.

Eight players participated in the four-day exhibition event.


Seles says Serena 'a legend'


Seles, a former world No.1, paid tribute to Williams' remarkable season, which saw the American win the French, Wimbledon and US Open.

"The season Serena had was really amazing," Seles said. "The only other players who had that kind of season on the tour during the last 10 years were (Martina) Navratilova, (Steffi) Graf and myself.

"Serena just raised the level of the game and it will be really interesting to see what happens (this) year."

Seles, the world No.7, is playing the exhibition Hong Kong Ladies Challenge event, along with fellow Americans Chanda Rubin and Alexandra Stevenson and Bulgaria's star Magdalena Maleeva, as her first warm-up event to the Australian Open.

She has said she will give herself another two years to realise her dream of winning a 10th grand slam title before she retires.

Although Seles and the rest of the WTA Tour were left in the wake of the Williams sisters last season, she has not given up hope of winning another grand slam tournament.

"That's what drives me," she said when asked about winning her first grand slam event since triumphing in Australia six years ago.

"I'd love to win another one and keep going as long as I can stay injury free. That will be my goal for 2003 and if I can do that and play at a high level, I will be happy."

She said her focus was on the Australian Open, where she won a hat-trick of titles from 1991-93.

"I got to a couple of semis (since) and I want to go further than that. I love the Australian," Seles said.

"The field is extremely tough and I will take it a match at a time."

Seles was beaten in the semi-finals by last year's runner-up Martina Hingis.

French No.2 seed Nathalie Dechy breezed into the semi-finals at the Australian Hardcourts on the Gold Coast with a straight sets win over Austria's Barbara Schett yesterday.

Dechy, who had beaten Australia's Nicole Pratt in three tough sets, had far less trouble with Schett, winning 6-4 6-2. v Swiss No.1 seed Patty Schnyder reached the semi-finals without picking up a racquet after American Meghann Shaughnessy pulled out with a twisted ankle.


Fault called on Seles


As the new order of women's tennis, Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters, prepare to do battle at the Hopman Cup in Perth tonight, former world No. 1 Monica Seles has been left without a lead-in event to the Australian Open.

Seles, the 29-year-old Yugoslav-born American who was put out of tennis in 1993 when stabbed at a Hamburg tournament, yesterday failed to meet yesterday's 4pm deadline to confirm her request for the final wildcard to the adidas International in Sydney from Sunday.

She thought she had until tomorrow but Women's Tennis Association officials refused to extend the deadline. Instead, the wildcard went to the talented Thai Tamarine Tanasugarn, ranked No. 28 in the world.

Seles, ranked No. 7, is currently at an exhibition event in Hong Kong.

She will go into the Australian Open in Melbourne from January 13 hoping to win a fifth title but without the chance of further match play under Australian conditions.

World No. 1 Serena Williams, defending adidas champion Jennifer Capriati and No. 4 Clijsters will have honed their games under Australian conditions this summer.

Williams will team with James Blake as the US take on the Clijsters-Xavier Malisse combination from Belgium in tonight's final round of the Hopman Cup.

Williams will sit out the Sydney tournament as will elder sister, No. 2-ranked Venus, preferring to use next week for practice.

Former world No. 1 Capriati, who is striving for three straight Australian Open titles, Clijsters, No. 5 Justin Henin, No. 8 Daniela Hantuchova and another former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport head the cast for the all-star women's line-up at the Sydney International Tennis Centre.

Seles is giving herself another two years to realise her dream of winning a 10th grand slam title before she retires. "I know I am at the end of the stage of my career. I will probably play to when I am max 31," she said.

Although Seles and the rest of the WTA Tour were left trailing by the Williams sisters last season, she has not given up hope of winning another slam. "That's what drives me," she said.

Seles said her immediate focus was on the Australian Open, where she won a hat-trick of titles between 1991 and 1993, and another in 1996.

"I love the Australian Open. "The field is extremely tough and I will take it a match at a time," added Seles, beaten in the semi-finals last year.


Seles starts 2003 with win in Hong Kong


HONG KONG (AP) -- American Monica Seles began the new year with a winning start as she defeated unheralded Chinese Peng Shuai 6-2, 6-0 on Wednesday to reach the semifinals of the Hong Kong Ladies Challenge tennis tournament.

The nine-time Grand Slam champion proved too strong for 16-year-old Peng in the four-day exhibition tournament that features a field of eight players and runs until Saturday.

"She's a fantastic junior player and she has a bright future ahead of her," 29-year-old Seles said of Peng.

Seles' fellow American Chanda Rubin, the world No. 13, also made it through to the semifinals by defeating last year's finalist, Elena Dementieva of Russia, ranked 19th in the world, 6-4, 6-1.

Rubin, who underwent surgery on her left knee last January, beat Dementieva to earn a semifinal meeting against either American Alexandra Stevenson or Russia's Anastasia Myskina, who both play Thursday.

Seles will play either Maria Sharapova of Russia or Bulgaria's Magdalena Maleeva in the next round.

"I felt great and it was a nice match for me," Rubin said, adding that she wanted to make some improvements in her future games.


Seles makes winning start in Hong Kong


(01-01) 04:54 PST HONG KONG (AP) --

Monica Seles defeated 16-year-old Peng Shuai of China 6-2, 6-0 Wednesday to reach the semifinals of the Hong Kong Ladies Challenge.

Also advancing in the eight-player, four-day exhibition tournament was Chanda Rubin, who beat 2002 finalist Elena Dementieva 6-4, 6-1.

Rubin will next meet either fellow American Alexandra Stevenson or Russia's Anastasia Myskina, who play Thursday.

Seles will play either Russia's Maria Sharapova or Bulgaria's Magdalena Maleeva in the next round.