News from 2014

Monica Seles at Optima Open


Monica Seles greets her fans at the Optima Open in Belgium.


Optima Open Doubles Exhibition


Belgium - Sunday's order of play will feature the final between Xavier Malisse and Fabrice Santoro, and also a second exhibition doubles match between the pairings of John McEnroe and Monica Seles and Mansour Banhrami and Kim Clijsters.

08/15/2014 - Monica Seles practices at Optima Open

08/16/2014 - Interview with Monica Seles at Optima Open

08/16/2014 - John McEnroe & Monica Seles vs Mansour Bahrami & Kim Clijsters at Optima Open


Fan Photos: Monica & Michael in Belgium


Our former forum member, Michael, recently had an experience of a lifetime meeting his tennis idol, Monica Seles. He said it was the happiest day of his life! Congrats Michael and thank you for sharing this moment with us!

Monica & Michael in Belgium
Click here to view a larger version of this photo.

Source: Michael Graham

Hall of Fame Journal: A legendary day for doubles


2014 Hall of Fame Exhibition

NEWPORT - Before the final matches of the 38th Hall of Fame Tennis Championships got under way on Sunday, several of the greatest individuals ever to play the game took the court and entertained the crowd with two doubles exhibition matches.

The men's exhibition was highlighted by an appearance from Australian Owen Davidson, winner of 12 Grand Slam titles during the 1960s and '70s. He was joined on the court by former pros Jimmy Arias, Brian Gottfried and Todd Martin.

A 14-year veteran of the ATP World Tour, Martin has taken part in several exhibitions at the Newport Casino over the years. This year, the 44-year-old also holds the title of CEO-designate of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He will succeed Mark Stenning, who is stepping down in September after 35 years with the Hall of Fame, the last 14 as its CEO.

"It's really important that we embrace and celebrate these legends of the game on a frequent basis," said Martin, "and this is the best stage to do that on."

After the lighthearted match between the men, it was the women's turn, as Rhode Island native and former pro Jill Craybas took Center Court with Hall of Famers Monica Seles, Tracy Austin and Gigi Fernandez.

A 2009 Hall of Fame inductee, Seles captured nine Grand Slam titles in the early 1990s, as well as the 2000 Olympic bronze medal in Sydney, Australia.

Considered one of the greatest doubles players of all time, Fernandez, who was inducted into the ITHF in the same year as Davidson, won at least one Grand Slam title every year except one from 1988 to 1997, finishing her career with 17 major doubles titles.

Quickly gaining acclaim in the 1970s when she beat Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova as a wide-eyed teenager from California, Austin won a pair of U.S. Open titles, the first in 1979 at the age of 16, and earned a No. 1 world ranking before her tennis career was cut short by injuries. In 1992, at the age of 30, she became the youngest player ever to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

"This is the second exhibition I've done (since retiring), and it's been awesome," said Craybas, who enjoyed a 17-year career on the women's professional tour. "Tracy, Gigi and Monica were just fantastic. I'm honored to be on the court with these Hall of Famers."

Now that Craybas makes her home in Southern California, she doesn't have many opportunities to come back to Rhode Island. "That's why I was so happy to come back," said the East Greenwich native, who was greeted by fans seeking her autograph after the exhibition. "I'm seeing a lot of faces I haven't seen in so long. People coming up to me that I haven't seen since high school really."


Tennis ace Monica Seles engaged to ex-pol Tom Golisano


Tom & Monica

It's game, set and engagement for tennis hall of famer Monica Seles and former gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano.

Golisano, 72, announced he and 40-year-old Seles were getting married during an appearance at an upstate high school Thursday, according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. the couple have been dating since 2009.

Calls to Golisano's office and charity foundation were not immediately returned.

The billionaire Golisano, founder of the Paychex payroll processing company, ran for governor on the Independence Party line in 1994, 1998 and 2002. He never got more than 14% of the vote.

Golisano, a native of the Rochester area, announced in 2009 that he was moving to Florida to escape New York's high tax burden.

Seles also lives in Florida. Earlier this year she announced she was putting her 5,800-square-foot Sarasota home on the market because she wanted to downsize.

Winner of eight Grand Slam singles titles, Seles retired from professional tennis in 2008.

She spent two years away from the game after she was stabbed during a 1993 match in Hamburg, Germany, by a deranged fan of tennis rival Steffi Graf.


Jill Craybas, Monica Seles to play exhibition in Newport


An exhibition match featuring tennis legends Monica Seles, Tracy Austin and Gigi Fernandez, and Rhode Island native and recently retired WTA Tour player Jill Craybas has been added to the schedule of events for the International Tennis Hall of Fame's annual Hall of Fame Tennis Championships and Rolex Hall of Fame Enshrinement weekend.

The women's doubles exhibition match will take place on Sunday, July 13, at 11 a.m. at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, preceding the finals of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships. While the Hall of Fame hosts the men's tournament annually, this exhibition match will mark the first time that a women's tennis event has been played in Newport in many years.


Monica Seles: A conversation with Harold Bubil


Real estate editor Harold Bubil recently visited tennis legend Monica Seles at her for-sale home in Laurel Oak Country Club for an interview over her favorite drink, classic Coca-Cola. Harold prefers Diet Coke and accepted Monica's offer of a Coke One. The two Sagittarians then began a free-wheeling one-hour conversation.

Harold: You are a naturalized U.S. citizen, but you were born in Serbia when it was part of Yugoslavia, but to Hungarian parents. Do you consider yourself Hungarian?

Monica: It's complicated. I'm American. I went to Hungarian school in the former Yugoslavia. I left at 9. We lived in Germany before we moved to the U.S. when I was 13.

Harold: Do you speak Hungarian?

Monica: I speak Hungarian with my family. It is a very difficult language, no one other than Hungarians speak it, and the closest thing is Finnish. So it is really a waste of your brain space. But it comes in handy.

H: I have been to Budapest. It's a beautiful city. That and Vienna are my favorites.

M: Vienna was a two-hour car ride. We love it! But I won't drive in Germany, France or Italy. Paris traffic is the worst.

H: Paris is not that bad. Milan? Those people have a death wish.

M: All I remember about family vacations to Italy is my parents arguing and getting lost. He was the driver and she had the map.

I tell my friends to take their kids to see the world. I am so thankful for my dad, from Day One with the junior tournaments. In his job, he used to travel and he would drag us around just to see. It opens so much.

I would travel to junior tournaments every weekend. You hop on the train Friday after school and you play. As a pro, we traveled 11 months of the year. A lot of my competitors were homesick, but I never had issues. You have to be open to being in that country.

H: Now that you are retired from the pro tennis tour, what are you doing now?

M: My goal after I retired was to get more kids into the sport. I started with such humble beginnings. I started on a wall in the apartment building where we lived because as a kid, they would not let me play on a tennis court. Being a girl, sports were not encouraged. So my dad pulled a string between two cars in a parking lot; that is how I played for a year. I want to show kids that you don't need all the fancy-schmancy-ness that so often people get caught up in.

I am involved with a few other athletes in a charity called Laureus (Laureus World Sports Academy, a unique association of 46 of the greatest living sporting legends. The Academy embraces the principle of using sport to help bring positive social change.) Each of us, we bring the skills and equipment and donate to the kids around the world. I look at how much my life was changed because of tennis – because of a little ball and a racquet.

That is my big passion. I still do a lot of tennis events, and I love it. I have two events in June in Europe, which I really love. I do a lot of corporate clinics and fitness retreats. I used to weigh a lot more (she laughs).

H: You look quite fit.

M: I have maintained this (weight) for 10 years, but the irony is that the last few years of my career, everyone was so worried about what would happen when I retired. There are many components to it.

Part of my career I was very fit. Part of it I was, ahem, very obese. When I retired, I found a balance that is healthy. It is not about how I look, but feeling healthy and making it a lifestyle. Because, essentially, you can go from one diet to another.

I love Coke, but I count in these calories of sugar (into her diet). I try to limit myself to one a day. My trainers were like, 'You can't eat this, you can't eat that.' Well, what can I eat? Realistically, I can't last on steamed vegetables and egg whites and protein shakes. I just love to eat. In my job, I go places. If I am in Rome or Paris, I want to eat that food! I am not going to eat egg whites. For me it was finding that balance where I can do that, but also feeling that I am not eating for emotional reasons, but eating because it is an energy (source). It wasn't food that was making me eat, it was emotions.

H: Athletes must make a dietary adjustment upon retirement. Was this a problem for you?

M: Great question. For me, the main issue was when my foot was on its last few days. As an athlete, you know when it is time to say, 'OK, I've had enough.' My worry was that I was at a certain weight, which was pretty high. What is going to happen when I don't play four or five hours a day? When you are training, your body is hungry and you need the fuel for the next day's recovery. So it is very different.

When I stopped playing (with the foot injury), I was in a boot for six to nine months, so I couldn't do very many exercises. What I ate was very important, and listening to why I ate. Worrying about the game leads to more cortisol in the body and holding onto the weight.

It was getting a grip on myself. You have to stop the cycle. You are 30 years old. Forget looks. End of the day, tennis is a business, so there is pressure to look a certain way. That is part of it. In my case, I had to separate that side and say I am just doing this for Monica. I am not doing this so I can look like some of the attractive tennis players so I don't miss out on endorsements, or so I can fit into a bridesmaid's dress, I am doing this for me. The time away from the tour, for the first time in my life, I could focus on myself and not being on that rollercoaster. It really helped me. I am proud I found a lifestyle where I don't feel deprived. I don't like protein shakes. Some people could make that sacrifice; I could not.

It does not happen overnight. It takes time. End of day, I have to take care of myself; no one else will.

H: Let's talk about your mission in life now -- youth and wellness.

M: Tennis has given me all of this (she motions to her surroundings). I was lucky as a kid to find something I liked to do, and I had two great parents that encouraged me, but never pushed me.

The weight issue, I was lucky to find a balance after eight tough, tough years. Tough from myself, my coaches and from the press. I would be lying to you to say it is not disheartening to read an article that says you are chunky cheese. That was the reality, but it is hard, especially for women.

H: The female players now tend to be glamorous in addition to being good athletes. How was it when you played?

M: It was moving toward that. And now the players are fitter and fitter and fitter. Serena (Williams) has done a tremendous job bringing the fitness of the sport to a higher level.

H: In your book, you discuss dealing with depression? What caused it?

M: Three big factors. The first was my stabbing (the knife attack by a fan during a match in 1993). Everything changed in my life overnight.

My dad's cancer was the biggest blow. You think of your dad being bulletproof. While he was battling that, I was battling my own eating addiction. He couldn't eat, and I would eat for 10 of us. The combination of that put me into brutal depression, and on top of that I gained a lot of weight, and it started affecting my job and started to get a lot of rough comments from people. When I took a break from my stabbing; I was 19. There was a heavy, heavy four or five years there (in the late 1990s). It was pretty foggy.

One thing that helped was getting back on the court and being on a schedule. I needed a schedule. There was one injury after another. My own depression, how I dealt with it was to not depend on anyone else. I wanted the tools to take care of it myself.

H: How did you handle your eventual decision to retire from the game?

M: I had a bad foot injury at the same time. The writing was on the wall, but you don't want to admit it. I took trip to Costa Rica to stay in an eco-lodge. Being by myself in a positive environment helped me inside to get the tools to take charge of a few parts of my life. For the first time, I said, "I am not going to give myself a plan, a schedule, a goal. All my life, everything was about a goal. Winning this tournament, reaching that weight. I was tired of goals and tired of people telling me what to do. Just leave me alone.

For me, it was just tuning out and accepting how I was. When there was a day I was down, I accepted it. "Monica, this is how you feel. Embrace it." If it happened for more than two days, I forced myself to go out, and that is how I fell in love with walking. I love to walk. It is the best therapy in my life. In that, I was open to my own thoughts, mile after mile. That was a therapy with my own brain -- take time to myself with no particular purpose.

(Depression) is an everyday battle, an everyday thing. Each moment, I made that decision. But what will happen tomorrow, I have no idea. I don't want that pressure on myself. The whole world has expectations. I only care about my expectations.

H: How do you feel about tennis now?

M: Every generation had its heyday. Mine is passed. I had my share; now it is someone else's time. Now I just like to go out there, have a good workout, and enjoy hitting. I love hitting. You feel it. And when you are finished, you miss that.

Tennis, what is nice about it, is you can go to any part of the world and you can find another person to play with. I have met so many friends, I can go to any country or city and because of tennis, I will know someone. I know where the locals eat, I know where the locals hang out. It is just wonderful to me. Tennis is a great sport, a lifetime sport. Maybe 1 percent of the kids who go to IMG will become professionals. But college educations, and the contacts you make. What a great life tennis can give you.

Tennis, even if you are 20th in the world, you are doing pretty well. If you are cute, you are doing really well. You travel the world – you don't see much, because you are working – but for ladies, it is a good sport, and socially, too.


Monica Seles puts home on market, and reflects on tennis career


Monica Seles at home

She's not leaving. But she is in the process of selling.

Tennis Hall of Fame member Monica Seles, one of the greatest athletes ever to call Sarasota home, is downsizing from her 5,800-square-foot house in Laurel Oak to something a bit smaller and easier to maintain in the Sarasota area.

The classically inspired house, on two and a half lots in Laurel Oak Country Club, is listed at $1.85 million through Joel Schemmel of Premier Sotheby's International Realty.

"The house is just too big for me now," said Seles.

Laurel Oak, on the other hand, has provided the high-profile athlete with the security she craves.

"The privacy is amazing here," said Seles. "The security. It is a great country club." She loves to walk or bike its roads, which are named after notable golf-course designers such as Donald Ross and Dick Wilson.

You couldn't say she grew up there, but she became a woman there, an open and genuine lady who long ago learned to survive the public's prying eyes and the unkind comments of a voracious tennis media.

And the knife of a backstabbing lunatic.

Born in the Serbian portion of the former Yugoslavia to Hungarian parents, Seles dominated women's tennis in the early 1990s as few other athletes have, winning eight Grand Slams singles championships from 1990-93. She holds the record as the youngest person, 16, to have won the French Open women's singles title, in 1990. For the next three years she was the player to beat in women's tennis. From 1991 to early 1993 she won 55 of 56 matches in Grand Slam events.

As a budding star in the mid-1980s, she moved to Bradenton to train under Nick Bollettieri, living in a condo at his tennis academy, now IMG, before moving to The Meadows in Sarasota.

This summer, Bollettieri, 82, will join her in the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. "It is long overdue," she said of the selection of her former coach. At 17, she bought her 1.7-acre parcel in Laurel Oak.

Seles' home, built in 1993, is unique in Laurel Oak and unusual for a country club house in that it has a tennis court - lighted, no less. Country clubs normally insist that residents play on the club's courts, not their own, but when a Grand Slam winner wants to move in, you make allowances.

Seles built the house with two courts, but she removed the clay court several years ago and replaced it with St. Augustine grass. That part of the estate has a fenced basketball court and a small building with exercise equipment.

Casa Seles also is walled and gated for extra security, not that your average nutcase could get past the security guard, a sharp New Zealander, at Laurel Oak's Bee Ridge Road entrance.

"Very few country clubs would allow a private tennis court inside, and a wall," she said. "Being in the public eye, you are always put on show. It is so nice to come home and practice, let my dogs out, and have that feeling of privacy."

Seles, 40, deemed all this security necessary largely because of her infamous encounter with a deranged tennis fan at a tournament in Hamburg, Germany, in late April 1993. Said to be devoted to rival Steffi Graf of Germany, the middle-aged man, also German, walked to the edge of the court during a break in a match Seles was playing against Magdalena Maleeva. He thrust a 9-inch knife 1.5 inches into her back, just missing her spine.

She recovered from the wound fairly quickly, but the emotional shock took her away from the game for two years and she never fully recovered her previous stature. She did win another major championship, the 1996 Australian Open, her ninth. She stepped away from regular tournament play in 2003 and officially retired in 2008.

The story is retold here only because it influences Seles' life even now, although she insists it does not define who she is.

"I am still a human being."

As difficult as the attack was to overcome, it is but one of the hurdles Seles described in her 2008 book "Getting A Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self." An eating disorder, the premature derailment of her career by the stabbing attack and recurrent foot injuries, and the death of her father from stomach cancer played a role in sending her into a brutal depression.

"My dad's cancer was the biggest blow," she said. "You think of your dad as being bulletproof. While he was battling that, I was battling my own eating addiction. He couldn't eat, and I would eat for 10 of us. The combination of that put me into brutal depression, and on top of that I gained a lot of weight, and it started affecting my job and I started to get a lot of rough comments from people."

"When I took a break from my stabbing, I was 19. There was a heavy, heavy four or five years there - in the late 1990s. It was pretty foggy."

"One thing that helped was getting back on the court and being on a schedule. I needed a schedule. My own depression, how I dealt with it was to not depend on anyone else. I wanted the tools to take care of it myself. You have to take care of yourself; no one else will."

When she emerged on the other side, a stronger and confident woman, Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim described her as "perhaps the most adored figure in the sport's history."

The home of Monica Seles is neat as a pin. "I love architecture, as a fan," she says, especially classical design, and her house drips with it.

Making the point, four large Ionic columns create a portico between the house and the pool deck. The three double-height arches frame Palladian windows and French doors.

The furnishings are sparse - she simply is not into a lot of stuff. "I was always minimalistic, and I travel a lot," she said. "I have to be organized."

She updated the 1993 house in 2009. The color scheme is now two tones of beige, the darker at the base of the walls, beneath chair rails with wainscoting.

There is no big trophy case, although there is plenty of room for one. The house is lightly decorated with impressionist paintings collected by her father, Karolj Seles, who was an art lover and professional cartoonist. They are dear to her heart.

Her exercise cottage, which her father used as an art studio, has two wooden tennis racquets on display. In the closet, Seles has stashed the tools of her trade - the expensive Yonex racquets with which she made her living.

A few steps away is the hard court where she has played plenty of friendly tennis games with such notables as former Casey Key resident Martina Navratilova, the Czech-born legend who won 18 Grand Slam titles in singles and dozens more in doubles and mixed doubles. Imagine the talent on the court when they played.

But their tennis games were more causal rallies than actual kept-score matches. Monica did not want them to become competitive. She calls it "hitting with my friends. I love to hit the ball."

She sometimes auctions off tennis lessons for charity, and when the winning bidders are women or girls, they tend to just hit the ball back and forth with the champion.

"But when it is a man, he usually wants to play a match and keep score," she said. "If they paid this for the charity, it's all good. 'Whatever you want, sir.' "

Once she finds a buyer, Seles says she will be happy to "camp out" at the Laurel Oak home of a family member while seeking a new home in Sarasota.

"Sarasota is a great place. It is very low-key. The people are nice, they don't have any attitude. I always love Sarasota. For me it is a great tennis community here."

"But I am old enough to know that you never know where life is going to take you."

She also likes the convenience to Interstate 75 and the proximity of the Tampa airport, which she needs for her international business travel.

"My goal after I retired was to get more kids into the sport," she said. "I started with such humble beginnings. I started hitting against the wall of the apartment building where we lived, because as a kid, they would not let me play on a tennis court. Being a girl, sports were not encouraged. So my dad pulled a string between two cars in a parking lot; that is how I played for a year."

"I want to show kids that you don't need all the fancy-schmancy-ness that so often people get caught up in."

Seles is a prominent member of the charitable Laureus World Sports Academy; its 46 "living sporting legends" use sports to help bring positive social change.

"Each of us, we bring the skills and equipment and donate to the kids around the world. I look at how much my life was changed because of tennis — because of a little ball and a racquet. That is my big passion."

She still plays in charity tennis events, "which I really love. I do a lot of corporate clinics and fitness retreats."

Seles is fit and trim, and has been for 10 years, but her weight was an issue during her career, to the point that friends and family were greatly concerned. The tennis press, on the other hand, made unkind comments. "It is disheartening to read that you are 'chunky cheese.'"

"Part of my career, I was very fit. Part of it I was, ahem, very obese. When I retired, I found a balance that is healthy. It is not about how I look, but feeling healthy and making it a lifestyle. Because essentially you can go from one diet to another, but you are going to be doing this," she said, making an up-and-down motion with her hand.

She said she wants to inspire women to take better charge of their lives and find the body weight that is good for them.

"It is not for everybody to be a size 4, or a size 12. You have to find what is right for you. Every body is different."


Monica Seles is selling Sarasota home


Monica Seles' Sarasota Home
Click here to see more photos of the house.

Are you a big tennis fan who is into rare memorabilia? You should drop $1,849,999 on Monica Seles’ Sarasota house that she’s trying to sell. Yes, yes, yes, it has a very nice tennis court. Stupid question.

As you can see, the pool is rather nice.

According to her realtor:

Set on more than 1.5 acres behind the gates of Laurel Oak Country Club, one of Sarasota’s premier golf and country club communities, this private walled and gated estate sits on 2.5 lots creating a private feel within a gated community. The beautifully updated home features expansive living and entertaining spaces, an oversized two-story lanai with covered outdoor kitchen plus large pool and spa, a lighted hard surface tennis court, room for a second tennis court, a small basketball court and a separate exercise room with full bath.


Monica Seles conducts tennis clinic in Abu Dhabi


Monica Seles in Abu Dhabi

Shaikha Shaikha bint Mohammed hosted tennis legend Monica Seles at an exclusive tennis clinic to share her inspiring life experiences and advice with attending guests.

Shaikha Shaikha bint Mohammed bin Khalid Al Nahyan, an avid tennis fan, keen tennis player and founder of SMK Tennis, welcomed tennis legend Monica Seles to the Palace of Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalid Al Nahyan on Friday.

In line with SMK Tennis' objective, Shaikha Shaikha bint Mohammed hosted tennis legend Monica Seles at an exclusive tennis clinic to share her inspiring life experiences and advice with attending guests. The ladies had the rare opportunity to interact with the renowned sports personality whose passion and determination has changed the shape of women's sports over the years.

"I am delighted to welcome Monica Seles, the tennis legend, whose sizzling pace and raw power on the court has left a lasting impression in our minds", said Shaikha Shaikha bint Mohammed bin Khalid Al Nahyan, adding: "I truly believe that inspirational personalities like Monica Seles have much to share with our ladies in the UAE, and I hope that by bringing some of the world's pioneering sports women to the UAE, our women will be inspired to achieve their goals."

SMK Tennis is an organisation aimed at promoting and providing a platform for female tennis players in the UAE to come together and play on both a competitive and social level.


Monica Seles impressed by Emirati women


Former world no. 1 Monica Seles was in the United Arab Emirates earlier this week and the nine-time grand slam champion and Hall of Famer was very impressed with the state-of-the-art facilities for tennis in the region.

Speaking at the Inspire Sports Management's annual Inspirational Women event on Saturday, Seles commented -

"I have been around a lot of facilities [all over the world], and here they are state-of-the-art. Now, it is up to the will power [of the Emirati people] to go out there and play tennis socially, or use the gym. It has been an amazing trip from day one. I was a little bit nervous the first time I had to interact with Emirati ladies before the tennis clinic because I did not know their level. I was absolutely blown away by the level they played at."

The UAE have spent millions of dollars to get the best facilities in the region and also bring top-tier ATP and WTA events in the region.


Monica Seles in face-off with Abu Dhabi pupils


Monica Seles in Abu Dhabi

Few children ever get the chance to impress a tennis legend on the court – but on Wednesday that's just what Zayed Elchouemi did.

Standing in front of about 1,000 of his peers from Aldar Academies schools, the nine-year-old was the first to face off against one of tennis's greats, the nine-time Grand Slam champion Monica Seles.

Seles rallied with pupils on the court at Zayed Sports City just hours after arriving in the capital as the new face of Mubadala's Inspirational Women 2014.

The social development campaign is meant to promote healthy, active lifestyles and an appreciation for tennis amongst the younger generation.

"We really believe that it is important to invest in future generations and really important to promote health and well being, basically a healthy lifestyle and to be fit," said Nadine Hassan, head of Mubadala's social development and partnership.

Mubadala is an Abu Dhabi-based investment and development company that hosts an annual namesake all-star tennis championship.

"There's no better way to do that than to bring somebody like Monica Seles who is not only a legendary tennis star, but also extremely prominent when it comes to being a health care and well-being advocate," Ms Hassan said.

Seles began playing tennis with her father in the car park of her family's apartment complex in Yugoslavia before earning a scholarship to train in the United States. By the time she was 16 she had already become the youngest player to win the French Open and at 17, she was the No 1 player in the world.

Her career was interrupted for two years after she suffered injuries from a bizarre on-court attack from an opponent's fan in Germany in 1993. When she announced her retirement from professional tennis in 2008, she had won nine Grand Slam titles, 53 singles championships and six doubles tournaments.

"I think most of you are too young to remember me playing professional tennis, so it was fun for me to see your reaction as you were watching the video," said Seles, referring to a biographical video of her life played for the children.

"Hopefully you will continue playing tennis. I believe it's a sport of a lifetime. It's so much fun, great friendships come out of it. It's good for your health, mind, body, fitness. So it's an all-around win-win combination," she said.

For Zayed, an American in Year 5 at Al Yasmina School in Abu Dhabi, the experience of hitting against Seles and eliciting positive feedback from her was "so fun".

"Hopefully I can be a professional star like her," he said. "Playing with a professional who won nine Grand Slams is something really good. I'm playing with a legend. That's something, wow."

Lauren Europa, a 12-year-old South African in Year 7 at Al Bateen, said it was thrilling to be on the same court as Seles.

"She's like a legend for all other tennis players," Lauren said. "You can find out how they were inspired and take their inspiration and put it into your life goals."

Seles will meet students at Zayed University on Thursday and will host a tennis clinic with female fans at the palace of Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalid Al Nahyan on Friday. Her visit is meant to coincide with International Women's Day on Saturday.

Nilay Ozral, CEO of Aldar Academies, a sponsor of Seles's visit, said: "We are thrilled that our partnership with Mubadala enables the students to meet one of the world's greatest sportswomen."

"Monica Seles is a role model for all, not only for her prowess as a tennis champion but also as someone who has faced up to, and conquered, great adversity."


Serena Williams passes Monica Seles ranking record


Monica & Serena

32-year-old American world no. 1 Serena Williams will pass Monica Seles for most weeks at no.1 in the rankings as she is assured of being no. 1 through the Indian Wells event.

In the latest WTA rankings released today, Serena stays at no. 1 for the 178th week and with no changes taking place next Monday, she will be no. 1 for atleast 179 weeks - taking sole possession of fifth spot in the all-time list. Serena's next target will be Martina Hingis' 209 weeks. The all-time leader is Steff Graf, who spent 377 weeks at no. 1 - a record Serena will not reach.

Speaking to the WTA Tour website, Serena commented, "I never dreamed of this. I remember when I passed her on the Grand Slams list it was really huge for me, because when you grow up watching someone and you're thinking, 'Oh my God, oh my God, they're so awesome,' to then be on their level is just pretty amazing. I never thought it would happen. I never even thought about it, really."

"Monica was my favorite player - I think she was pretty much everyone's favorite player. I wanted to be like her. I wanted to do everything like her. I even styled my grunt after hers - I kind of changed it and made it my own. But Monica always inspired me - I've always loved Monica."


Review: The Academy - Love Match


The Academy - Love Match

I only have love for one trashy series at a time, and "Game On" secured Monica Seles’s The Academy series as my chosen. "Love Match" cements its position with more drama, and occasional sport.

Yes, sport. There are plenty of physical female characters in YA fiction, but usually they’re defensive or violent, so it’s great to see sport have a starring role. Tennis player Maya Hart’s point of view guides the entire novel, even though her own storyline is so-so. Her on-court career is going great, but her off-court life is less successful – mostly due to her dual attraction for gridiron-playing brothers, and the occasional upstaging in the media by her rival.

Chinese golfer Cleo has won a junior invitational tournament yet keeps being criticised by a particular blogger. First for her outfits, then for her “partying”, and lastly for being “Americanized”. This storyline is awkward because the characters seem to equate criticism with “trolling”/”bullying”. It turns out the blogger’s motives are good, but the execution is not. Cleo’s sub-plot wraps up neatly with a happy ending.

South African/French swimmer Renee Ledecq is a little heart-breaking here. The daughter of wealthy parents, she’s extremely generous to others…but doesn’t treat herself half as well. However, her latest relationship could teach her to love herself more, and hopefully this will be expanded upon in a future novel.

This addictive series has hooked me fully, and further books set in the Academy ‘verse would be most welcome. Yes it’s trash, but it’s MY kind of trash.


Review: The Academy - Love Match


The Academy - Love Match

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books

Format: Paperback / eBook

Released: February 13th, 2014

Amazon summary:

The Academy is the sports school everyone is talking about. But for Maya, it seems getting in was the easy part. It's staying there that's tough. To succeed it takes more than just talent. You need fame . . .

After a star performance in the semi-finals at a tennis competition, Maya is labelled The Next Big Thing and books a high-profile modelling job. The only problem is her co-star in the campaign is her super-hot ex-boyfriend, Jake Reed - and this is a job that her rival, Nicole, wants! Maya's only just put the betrayal by Jake and Nicole behind her and now Maya is being drawn back into a circle of jealousy and desire. Luckily, she knows Nicole's latest secret and gossip is a powerful weapon at The Academy! 


Love Match is the second book in The Academy series, penned by ex-tennis pro Monica Seles. This second instalment isn't quite as good as the first, which I really enjoyed when I read it last year, but it's still an entertaining read for anyone who likes their YA fiction more on the gossipy, dramatic side. 

Maya is still the star of the show, chasing boys and trying to balance her social life with her professional alter ego. She becomes involved in modelling, plays several important matches and has the touch decision of which agent to sign with. Nothing is easy at the Academy!

Love Match features more behind the scenes goings-on from the world of sport. The social politics, backstabbing and rivalries are all laid bare, which unfortunately means there isn't much actual tennis being played. What tennis is included is written with a good knowledge and jargon, thanks to Monica Seles' years of expertise.

I like these books and will continue to read them, but I hope future instalments focus more on the sport and less on the social side of things. This series is like Gossip Girl at a sporting school - slick, rich and full of angst. Everything you need for a quick, escapist read!


Tennis Legend Monica Seles Expected to Visit Sofia


The world famous ex-tennis player Monica Seles will most likely come to the Tournament of Champions in Sofia, Bulgaria at the end of October.

Seles was invited by the tournament's media director Lyubomir Todorov during the Fed Cup in Budapest.

"Thank you for the invitation, I would gladly come to Sofia", Seles said, quoted by the tournament's website.

Seles, born in former Yugoslavia, but competing for the United States, won a total of 9 Grand Slams in her career, reaching the number 1 ranking in 1991.

This year's edition of the Tournament of Champions will take place between October 28 and November 2 in Sofia.