Interview: Monica Seles | Sport | The Guardian
Apologies if this topic has been covered before, but I am fascinated by the relationship, or non-relationship (as they both claim) between Steffi. Monica Seles talks to Tim Adams about being stabbed in the back and the 19 and a deranged Graf fan ran on to the court at a tournament in Hamburg and .. She found it hard anyway to form relationships as a tennis player always well have doubled or tripled that figure), but a sense of purpose was. the Australian Open final, when Seles beat Graf in three tough sets. . previously had a strained relationship with the WTA arising from her surprise withdrawal a bare week later, the knowledge of Parche achieving his twisted goal after.
The shock was one thing to cope with, and the physical damage to her shoulder was another - a centimetre to the left and she would have been paralysed for life. But really, she says, none of that was the worst of it: Looking back, Seles suggests, her peak years in tennis would likely have been between the ages of 19 and As it turned out, she hardly picked up a racket at all in that time.
The nightmare of her assault deepened almost immediately when she discovered as she lay in hospital that her beloved father had been diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer - he had missed the tournament in Hamburg in order to have tests.
For her, the news and the timing could not have been worse. Her dad was her mentor and her best friend; it was to him that she would have turned to express her deepest fears about the horror of what she had experienced. But, she says, "I didn't want to pile other worries on him - he had enough to think about.
One problem was that it happened in Germany and was 'because' of a German player. The German federation decided to continue the tournament as if nothing had happened, and everyone else seemed to follow on from that. They voted unanimously against that idea with one abstention: Gabriela Sabatiniand so everyone moved up a notch and the waters closed over the head of the recuperating champion.
Their money was tied up to the ranking system, and that was obviously an issue He eventually stood trial on a charge of wounding rather than attempted murder, and though he admitted the attack had been premeditated he escaped a prison sentence after psychological reports. Later I tried to sue the German Tennis Federation for lack of security and lost income, and I lost those cases, too.
It was hard to cope with the fact that the guy was not even sent to prison. It did not feel like justice to me. My rankings, all my income, endorsements - they were all cancelled.
And the one person who could have comforted me really, who understood what it meant, my father, was of course facing this awful illness. She had always enjoyed her food, never had to be told to clear her plate as a child, and now she did that, and more so.
There were so many ifs. In the end though, after two and a half years, I felt I just had to try. I came back in Toronto and the fans' support was just amazing. I won that first tournament back, and that helped. She had worked hard to get into shape for that tournament, but even then she was nothing like the weight she had been at It was then she started to hear the voices.
What happened to Seles?
Seles / Graf relationship - posavski-obzor.info
Did you see how big she was? I had been out of the game for two years. My father was extremely sick. I was no longer a teenager. I turned to food for comfort. What did they expect? She had suffered some of it before the stabbing, particularly on one occasion when she had cut her hair into a new style as part of an endorsement deal for a haircare company. I'd never met her and she said: Things had come to a head at Wimbledon inwhen the papers made a controversy about the noise she made and the players started to complain - notably Martina Navratilova, who lost to Seles in the semi-final.
But going into that tournament I had lost one match all year. I think it was a purely a mental tactic, by Martina and others. You always look for something. With me I didn't have a crazy father, I didn't have a crazy personal life, there was just this grunting, so they went for that.
I grew up a lot that day. And I decided never again would I listen to what people say. If they made grunting against the rules, then I would have to think about it, but otherwise I would do whatever helped me to play my best.
It was not easy. But when Anna Kournikova came along, there was this whole other thing - suddenly it was all about looks. Tennis is pretty unforgiving if you are carrying weight.
You are expected to wear short skirts, and you are compared to all these and year-olds.Steffi Graf vs Monica Seles 1999 RG Highlights
Nobody needed to tell me - I only had to look in the mirror or try on my clothes. I tried so hard to lose weight. Every year began with a resolution - I would wake up in the morning thinking about my size, and go to bed at night staring at the ceiling, hungry.
I tried this fad diet or that and I lost the weight and then two months later I would gain it back again and more. Wimbledon was always the lowest point of her year, she says. There was the pressure of playing on grass, which was not my favourite surface, and worse, the British press, which would always be on to me, first about my grunting then about my size. I dreaded those fortnights. My heaviest ever was Wimbledon: You cannot carry that around a grass court.
I was reading the articles before I went on court. And then if a player hit a drop shot or something I'd be thinking: And then at press conferences I would have to sit there while these guys who had written about how fat I was asked me questions. And you know sports writers are not necessarily in the best shape themselves. These enormous guys, asking me if I could be in better shape - I mean, look at yourself in the mirror! Don't be so brutal!
The other thing is, at the U. Open, I felt like I always had the crowd on my side. That was my first big splash, breaking in at that tournament at I was their girl. So you know how it feels. And when I played Virginia Wade in the semis at Wimbledon [in ], I almost tanked the last point, because I was so — I mean, I really was annoyed at how biased the fans were. So now the shoe was on the other foot. I think we both felt both sides of the coin.
Martina, at a certain point you had a significant other who considered Chris the enemy and told you to hate her. That was Nancy Lieberman.
Was Graf "slumping" during Seles' supremacy? | Talk Tennis
I was with Judy Nelson that year. So things had calmed down on that front. And when I was coached by Dennis Ralston, he was trying to get me to be tough with Martina also.
But Martina, I think Judy helped you with that. And then [in ] you retired, so that changed everything. Because it had always been such a one-on-one situation. The crowd is waiting for the players to come, and they walk through the tunnel, and they get on the court, and they get out their rackets, their weapons, and now they start. In the last three or four years we played each other, I think we felt comfortable with our rivalry and with ourselves and our relationship.
What was great about our practices — Martina would say: Do you want me to serve? I need to get that going. The top players all travel with their coaches, their trainers and their whole team. Once we could afford it, we had people traveling with us. So the players hang out less with each other.
Well, nobody has been consistent at the top. For a while it looked like it was going to be a [Justine] Henin-Williams thing, but then Henin retired twice, and [Kim] Clijsters retired as well — and it just kind of fizzled. Nobody was able to sustain it.
Chris Evert: 'If Seles wasn't stabbed, Graf would have not won 22 Slams'
A lot of it has to do with Serena, too. Maybe I am underestimating. Maybe everybody is hungry. Now 44, she is chatty and engaging in a rapid-fire-no-punctuation kind of way, running through sentences in her familiar hybrid twang rather than necessarily finishing them.
So familiar, yet also not, for her features are sharper now, almost a little pinched, the super-lean Seles having spoken publicly about her years spent struggling with an eating disorder. Just as she was a complete professional in her playing days, she is still a delight to interview, all laughs and nods and warm reminiscences of a time that must seem so very long ago. The "Academy" series is set in an international sports school; the central character, the scholarship kid "Maya", hailed as the Next Big Thing in tennis.
There are jealousies and rivalries. One blurb warns that "you never know who your competition is". Guess all you like who might, or might not, be based on her own competition, back in the day. She has never lost touch with the game, watches regularly on TV, attends the US Open each year and speaks with interest and authority about the current generation.