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Monica Seles

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Monica Seles, 2003

Monica Seles, 2003

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About Monica Seles:

Dates: December 2, 1973 -

Known for: The strange noises that accompany her strokes, her powerful two-handed forehand, and her commanding position in her sport from the time she won the Yugoslav 12-and-under girls championship in 1981 - she was nine at the time - through her retirement from professional play on February 14, 2008.

Less fortunately, Seles is also known for the bizarre incident in April, 1993, at a tournament in Hamburg, Germany, when she was stabbed in the back as she rested between games. Her attacker was an obsessed fan of Stefi Graf who wanted to help Graf be the number one player again. Seles was unable to compete for 27 months, but returned with decisive wins that again placed her at the top.

Sport: Tennis

Country Represented:

  • Represented USA in Olympics.
  • Born in Nova Sad, Yugoslavia; became American citizen on March 16, 1994.
  • Resident of Sarasota, FL, USA.

Olympics:

  • XXVI Olympiad, Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Tennis, USA, 1996.
  • Bronze medal, XXVII Olympiad, Sydney, Australia; Tennis, USA, 2000.

Organizations:

  • Goodwill Ambassador, Laures Sports Foundation
  • Goodwill Ambassador, Intergovernmental Institution for the Use of Micro-algae Spirulina against Malnutrition

Records:

  • Bronze, XXVII Olympiad, Sydney, Australia, 2000.
  • Youngest Roland Garros champion in history, at 16 years, 6 months. 1990.
  • 9 grand slam singles titles.
  • 53 Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Tour singles titles.
  • 6 WTA Tour doubles titles.
Training: Bollettieri Tennis Academy, Bradenton, Florida, USA, from 1985.

Background, Family:

  • Mother: Esther Seles, computer programmer
  • Father: Karolj Seles, formerly a cartoonist and documentary filmmaker, later Monica's coach. Died in 1998.
  • One brother: Zoltan
  • Not married

More About Monica Seles:

Monica Seles was born in Novi Sad, in the former Republic of Yugoslavia (now Novi Sad, Serbia), on December 2, 1973. She is the second child and only daughter of Karolj Seles, a cartoonist and documentary filmmaker who became Monica's coach, and Esther Seles, a computer programmer.

Monica won her first championship, the Yugoslav 12-and-under girls title, in 1982, at the age of nine. One year later she won the 12-and-under European championship. In 1985, when she was 12, she was named Yugoslavia's sportswoman of the year.

That same year, 1985, while playing in a tournament in Florida, Monica caught the eye of Nick Bollettieri. Bollettieri was a renowned tennis trainer and coach who was working with Andre Agassi and Jim Courier, among others. He invited Monica to come to his training academy in Bradenton, Florida. The following year, arranged for a scholarship to to make that possible. Six months later, her parents gave up their jobs in Yugoslavia and joined her. Her father became her coach and continued in that role until shortly before his death in 1998.

Seles turned professional at fifteen, in February, 1989. She reached the semifinals of the first professional tournament she entered. In her second tournament, she defeated top-seeded Chris Evert to win her first title. She ended the year ranked No. 6 in the world.

In 1990, Seles achieved stardom by becoming the youngest player to win a Grand Slam title - the French Open, or Roland Garros, where she defeated Stefi Graf in the final - and the youngest player to win the Virginia Slims Championships, considered the season championship, by defeating Gabriells Sabatini in a grueling five-set match. On March 11, 1991, Seles took over the number-one ranking, ending Stefi Graf's record at 188 weeks. Just past her seventeenth birthday, Monica Seles became the youngest tennis player, male or female, to be ranked number one.

Seles continued to dominate women's tennis until the bizarre attack in 1993. When she returned, the WTA Tour made a controversial decision to co-rank her as number one, with Graf. She soon proved them right, winning not only every match but every set in her first tournament, the Canadian Open. She went on that year to lose a hard-fought match to Graf in the finals of the U.S. Open and to dominate the Australian Open.

Over the next two years, Seles remained one of the top contenders on the WTA Tour, but she did not dominate the game as she had before her injury. One likely factor in the change was watching her father, and coach, succumb to cancer. Karolj Seles died in May of 1998. Less than two weeks later, Monica entered the French Open, partly as a way to escape her memories of his death. In the semifinals, Selas faced Martina Hingis. In a stunning upset, Selas defeated the number-one ranked Hingis in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, before losing to Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in a hard-fought final.

Bibliography:

  • Joe Layden. Return of a Champion: The Monica Seles Story. 1996. ISBN-13: 978-0312960025.
  • Monica Seles, with Nancy Ann Richardson. Monica: From Fear to Victory. 1996. ISBN-13: 978-0060186456.
  • Suzanne J. Murdico. Monica Seles (Vol. 11 in the "Overcoming the Odds" series of books for children). 1998. ISBN-13: 9780817241285.

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