News from 2011

Monica Seles visits Naples in effort to re-energize women's tennis


Retired and now an ambassador for her sport, Monica Seles is trying to increase the exposure of tennis in the United States.

Seles has watched the popularity of tennis fall thanks to a decrease in recognizable American names in the game. The only Americans to win a men's or women's Grand Slam title the past eight years are Serena and Venus Williams.

"In women's tennis, and even men's tennis, at the moment I can't think of one name to tell you," other than the Williams sisters, Seles said Friday morning during a promotional appearance at Kensington Golf and Country Club in Naples.

The former No. 1 player in the world and nine-time Grand Slam champion hopes to bring Americans back to tennis through events like the one at Kensington. Seles gave out free lessons in a short clinic as part of the Cadillac Golf and Tennis Taste Drive.

Nearly 300 people were expected to participate in the event, which also feature golf lessons from three-time PGA Teacher of the Year Mike Shannon and a cooking demonstration from Michael Ragusa, chef at Fort Myers restaurant the Sandy Butler.

Though Friday's early morning crowd at Kensington was mostly people around retirement age, Seles said the future of tennis in the United States lies in the crop of young players.

"There are some really talented juniors," Seles said. "Hopefully one or two will make it through. So often you see all the Eastern European players like myself coming to the U.S. and making their mark here because of the facilities and the coaches. It's just inspiring the kids."

Seles, a month shy of her 38th birthday, said she does a lot of kids clinics. She can't play singles because of the foot injury that caused her to officially retire in 2008. She hasn't played professionally since 2003, but Seles still plays some doubles exhibitions.

In the spring of 2003 Seles lost to Serena Williams in an exhibition match at Naples Bath and Tennis Club, just around the corner from Kensington.

"I was very excited Cadillac invited me to come back to such a beautiful place," Seles, who lives in Florida, said of Naples.

In between appearances, clinics and exhibitions, Seles puts down her racket and picks up a pen. She is in the process of finishing her first novel in a three-book series about a fictional sports academy.

"It's kind of like a Beverly Hills 90210 except with harder bodies," Seles said.

Seles branched out of tennis in 2008 when she was on Season 6 of "Dancing With the Stars." She was the second celebrity eliminated.

"I had a great time ... but I was just terrible," Seles said. "I have two left feet. I'll stick to tennis."


Monica Seles The Power of Tenacity


This video was shared with us from our friend, Ludo. Below is his message to you all:

Hello guys. I would like to share this video with you, all Monica's fans. Once again in this video Monica is very honest, kind and worthy. I think it's the true Monica in her life, simple and safe. I have to say everything is possible to be happy and free... yeah it's possible. I just realized this a few years ago. Today I'm a young man and everyday I take advantage of everything. So take advantage and enjoy it.



30 Seconds With Monica Seles


Monica Seles

By Vincent M. Mallozzi

Monica Seles, a former No. 1-ranked tennis player, won 9 Grand Slam singles titles, 53 career titles and a bronze medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. She officially retired in 2008, five years after her last match. Seles, 37, was in Manhattan last Monday to help kick off Wimbledon by playing against select fans on a grass court at Rockefeller Center, part of a series of activities presented by HSBC Bank.

Q. What have you been doing in retirement?

A. Well, I've been trying to keep busy. I wrote a book two years ago called 'Getting a Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self,' and I do a lot of motivational speaking about getting into the best shape of your life. I also do a lot of tennis clinics for kids, and now I'm writing my first novel, tentatively titled 'The Academy,' which will be coming out sometime next year. It's about a fictional sports academy, and I follow the lives of the people who are a part of it.

Q. How would you characterize yourself as a player?

A. I was one of the first female players to play aggressive tennis. I put every ounce of energy into every ball.

Q. You did a lot of grunting along the way. Did it help?

A. I never really thought it was such a big deal. Many of today's players now grunt. As long as you're doing it naturally, that's fine. I got a lot of heat for grunting in 1992 when I beat Martina Navratilova in the semifinals at Wimbledon. I had grunted many times before, and nobody complained or said a word. It was only after I became No. 1 in the world that it became an issue.

Q. How did it feel to achieve a No. 1 world ranking?

A. It wasn't such a "wow" thing to me. I mean it was great because it meant I was the best in my sport, but then you have to wake up the next day and defend it. But for me, what always gave me the greatest joy was winning Grand Slam titles.

Q. As a 19-year-old in 1993, you were stabbed in the back during a change-over at a tournament in Hamburg, Germany. Did that have a long-lasting effect on you and did it change your outlook on life?

A. I think it changed my outlook on a lot of things because I realized over one day that everything could have been taken away from me. I was very proud that I came back from that incident and continued to have a great career. About nine years after my stabbing, I was about 30 pounds heavier, and about 45 pounds heavier in total than I am today. I was doing a lot of emotional eating. I had to learn that yes, I could have cookies and other sweets, but I had to have it in moderation.

Q. Who reminds you most of Monica Seles in her playing days?

A. There's a French girl named Marion Bartoli who is an aggressive player like I was. She has a unique style in that she uses two hands on both her forehand and her backhand. There is also Serena Williams. She has a lot of mental toughness, she's very focused when she puts her mind to it, and I was a lot like that.

Q. Who were your tennis idols?

A. Growing up, I got to watch a lot of matches involving Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. There were so awesome, just how they played and what they wore, I really admired both of them. In those days, there was no Internet, so I didn't get to see too many other matches. I only got to see the finals of the French Open and Wimbledon. I didn't even know until I was about 10 years old that there are actually about 120 players in the Wimbledon draw. I thought, 'Hey, I just have to beat Martina and Chrissy; this should be easy.'

Q. Tell us something no one knows about you.

A. I have been grunting while playing tennis since I was 7 years old. Everybody thinks I just started grunting against Martina in that semifinals match, but that's not true.

Q. What are your hobbies and interests outside of tennis?

A. I love to swim and play basketball, and I really love animals. I do a lot of charitable work with animals. I still play tennis, but just for fun.


Seles & Courier On The Today Show


HSBC Bank Brings Wimbledon To NY


HSBC Bank, the official banking partner of Wimbledon, is sponsoring events related to the English tennis tournament at New York City's Rockefeller Center June 20-24. Former top-ranked players Monica Seles and Jim Courier will play with fans at Manhattan's only grass court on June 20. Emmy Award-winning sports broadcaster Brett Harber will serve as emcee for the event.

Additionally, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Wimbledon, HSBC Bank has teamed up with some of New York's favorite restaurants and food trucks for "Taste of Wimbledon," which will include the tennis tournament's famed strawberries and cream.

Fans can watch live Wimbledon matches on a giant outdoor LED screen, along with many other tennis-related activities.


Maria & Sara Meet Monica in Rome!


Maria & Sara with Monica Seles in Rome!

Monica Seles in Rome!

Monica Seles in Rome!

Our fellow Monica fans, Maria & Sara, had the pleasure of meeting Monica Seles at the Masters Series in Rome, Italy on Saturday, May 14, 2011. Monica also received The Racchetta d'Oro (The Golden Racquet) Award while in Rome. Maria & Sara were kind enough to share their experience and photos with us! We all owe Maria & Sara a big THANK YOU for taking the time to share their experience with us all! The following is an excerpt from the email we received from them:

Last Saturday I had the chance to meet her again in Rome where she was awarded with The Golden Racket Award during the Master Series Tournament. My friends and I have followed and supported her in Rome in 2000 and 2003, maybe you remember guys giving her roses after winning the title in 2000! Well last Saturday we knew she was going to be there and we tried to meet her again. We were successful! Monica was surprised because she recognized us and didn't expect to find us again after 8 years with our flags, support, and love! She was, as you know, simply lovely with us. She chatted, signed autographs on photos and books and made a nice picture together. It's something we will never forget and will stay forever in our hearts! And she is really in great shape! My friends and I would like to share some beautiful pictures of this meeting with Monica, so we want to ask if you want to receive the photos by e-mail and then upload on the site. This is our present to you as you have been one of the best news providers we have had throughout Monica's career and on. Monica - a great tennis champion, a fantastic human being, and a marvelous woman who still make our hearts beat.


Sara & Maria

Photos Courtesy of Maria & Sara! Click here to view the rest of the photos!

Flashback: The tragedy of Seles


Monica Seles was at the peak of her sport as she prepared for the French Open in 1993. In an instant, she lost everything.

By Marcus Chhan

Number one in the world at the age of just 19, Seles headed to Hamburg for a warm-up tournament before Roland Garros that year.

She recalled in her autobiography Getting a Grip: On My Game, My Body, My Mind (published in 2009) the day when a 38-year-old German named Günther Parche decided to change the course of tennis history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seles would play professional tennis again, but a lack of consistency meant she was never the same fearsome player she once was.

Before the stabbing, she became the youngest-ever French Open champion at the age of 16 when she won the tournament in 1990. She was best women's player on the planet for the next three years. Seles won three Australian Opens and French Opens, two US Opens, and Wimbledon in a short period from 1990 to 1993.

The shot at becoming, perhaps, the best to ever play the game was cruelly taken away from her by a psychopath over 18 years ago.

Seles returned to the tennis circuit in 1995 and pushed through mental and physical barriers to win the Australian Open in 1996. It was to be her last Grand Slam success.

She officially retired from the sport which had given her everything and also taken so much away on February 14, 2008.

Although it pales in comparison to the personal loss Seles suffered as a result of the stabbing, it is notable that the incident also robbed tennis of an intriguing rivalry for the ages. The Seles vs Graf history book was only a few chapters old before that fateful day in Hamburg.

Would this rivalry have gone on to eclipse Navratilova-Evert? We will never know, but there is no question it would have been fascinating to watch. The grace of the long-legged Graf versus the exuberant youth of Seles. Graf's classic single-handed strokes against the now trademark double-handed Seles backhand.

Quite perversely, Seles' assailant got exactly what he wanted. Before the incident, there had been indications that the left-hander's game was rapidly evolving and Graf struggled at times against her power from the baseline. But Seles was never the same after the stabbing and the German went on to establish a hegemony that lasted through the 90s.

In some respects, their rivalry might have ended up being similar to the Federer-Nadal rivalry in the men's game. Graf was the champion whose elegance on the grass courts of Wimbledon like Federer knew no equal. Then Seles, just like Nadal, arrived on the scene with a bang by winning the French Open as a teenager.

In time, Nadal's dominance on the red surface would spread to the hard courts and he would even have his day against Federer on center court at Wimbledon. Perhaps Seles might have developed into a more complete player given the chance.

Instead all that is left are memories - good memories it has to be said - of a player who must never be forgotten.


Seles Receives The Racchetta d'Oro Award (The Golden Racquet)


Monica Seles at The Racchetta d'Oro Award (The Golden Racquet) - May 14, 2011

"The Racchetta d'Oro award (The Golden Racquet) has become over the years an award which everyone waits for with bated breath. Plenty of former greats have been calling me up to ask me when their turn will come! This year the award goes to the great Ken Rosewall – no-one has ever matched his backhand in all the years since – and the other special guest will be Monica Seles." - Nicola Pietrangeli

A special "Thank you!" to Maria for sharing this information with us! Click here to view the rest of the photos!


Seles urges dialogue to improve sports security


Michael Johnson & Monica Seles


DOHA: Former world number one Monica Seles has urged dialogue between players and organisers on a regular basis to improve security at sporting events around the world.

Almost 18 years ago, the American was stabbed by a deranged fan of Steffi Graf in Hamburg, leaving a traumatised nine-time Grand Slam champion to stay away from the sport for more than two years.

Speaking at a two-day Sports Security Conference organised by Qatar International Academy for Security Studies, Seles underlined the need for detailed deliberations to improve player safety.

"Considering what happened to me way back in 1993, I think there's a long way to go (in terms of security at tennis events). From the time I was stabbed, I think the security hasn't changed. It's good that we are opening up a dialogue through this sports (security) conference. I think it would be better to have extensive dialogue, maybe decide on special budgets that anyone would want to go with (to improve security)," Seles said yesterday.

"I do worry and hope that no other athlete has to go through what I went through. You are out there by yourself. It's you and your opponent. And in tennis, the distance from the fans is pretty close," the 37-year-old pointed out.

"I was able to make a great living out of tennis because of the fans who are part of the games. When we practice is the time when an athlete is really most vulnerable. When you are going out to the practice court, you don't have that barricade that you want to have when you play the French Open or the Wimbledon.

"The athlete's job is just to focus on the play and try to win the match without having to worry about such things. When you step into that arena, when you have so much on the line, and you are so focused on every single point, so much of your life has been spent to reach that position of winning a tournament, you really don't want to be thinking about such issues. This is where the role of people (who manage and organise events) comes in and it is their job to ensure that everything goes smooth. There should be a set standard of security. One way could be that the top tennis players got together and try to find a level and get the ITF, WTA and ATP on board," the former Qatar Open champion said.

The American said sports personalities are entertainers and must be protected at all times.

"As a former athlete, in my case, when I stepped out on a court, your job is to try and win that match. It really is to entertain the fans. And once when you step on the courts you feel like that's your safe haven. Unfortunately, what happened to me, I didn't feel that it was my safe haven for an extremely long time. And then you hope it never happens to another athlete because that feeling should not be taken away from you. It really damages your confidence I guess," Seles said.

In January 1993, Seles defeated Graf in the final of the Australian Open. However on April 30 the same year, during a quarter-final match with Magdalena Maleeva in Hamburg in which Seles was leading 6–4, 4–3 Gunter Parche, an obsessed fan of Graf, ran from the middle of the crowd to the edge of the court during a break between games and stabbed Seles with a boning knife between her shoulder blades, to a depth of 1.5 cm (0.59 inches). She was quickly rushed to a hospital.

Parche was charged following the incident but was not jailed because he was found to be psychologically abnormal and was instead sentenced to two years' probation and psychological treatment. The incident prompted a significant increase in the level of security at tennis events.

But Seles yesterday revealed that she arranged personal security at tennis events.

"For each sport, it is different. For soccer it is different, and I can only speak individually about tennis. I felt after what happened to me that I had to provide security for myself. I had to take my own security measures. For me to have my peace of mind, that's what I had to do. For other athletes, they may not do it but I had to do it," Seles told a select gathering at Aspire Academy.

"I can't speak for other (tennis) players. Each player has a unique situation, geographically, what fans base they have... but one of the things I see as a former athlete is that you want to have peace of mind on the court. Whatever issues I had in my personal life were forgotten once I stepped on the court. I was totally focused on what I was going to do.

"It is very important to have security measures so that you don't fall into the whole liability issue.

"What I did outside tennis was my responsibility but once I stepped on to the court, it was their responsibility," the Yugoslav-born American added.

Michael Johnson, the four-time Olympic and an eight-time world champion, said sports security usually gained importance for an athlete during an event.

"I don't think that most athletes put the security aspect that high at all. It definitely is thought about. I don't know how the security's been over the last few years, especially at the Olympics level. Most athletes don't think too much about it maybe because we feel we are safe. Because we know this aspect is taken care of by the organising committee (of any sports event). But it is certainly on the mind of an athlete when you go into a competition. Because, as we understand, there is a balance that we have to put up with," Johnson said.

Would Johnson skip an event if the security was patchy?

"When it comes to Olympics, you don't have a choice. Once you get there, you don't want to miss the Games. That's pretty much the standard. That's the event (where) you don't have low level of security," Johnson said.

"The security aspects shows how powerful sport is. How passionate the fans are. And how seriously athletes take their sports. But there has to be a balance.

"We need to educate the fans so that it allows them to express their passion the right way.

"It is hard for an athlete to know what type of security would be best (at sports events). For example, there was an issue at the Commonwealth Games last year because of the (terrorist) attack (in Mumbai) before that (in November 2008). That (attack) caused some of the athletes (to think) that it would not be worth it (to go there). I understood their (the athletes') concerns. You would have to look at individual situations and in my situation, as world champion and an Olympic champion, I would skip Commonwealth Games.

"I don't know what security arrangements were like in New Delhi. But I know what was reported. I am sure there was more security than the monkeys shown on television to keep other monkeys from attacking people. That's what was shown on television.

"It is difficult for an athlete to know. How does an athlete find out about the security? That's for the governing body of any event to look into," Johnson said.