Seles Calls it Quits
All hail the original grunter extraordinaire: Monica Seles is retired. After briefly being inspired by Lindsay Davenport’s motherhood comeback, Seles officially hung up her rackets five years after playing her last tour match at the 2003 French Open, where she lost 6-4, 6-0 to Nadia Petrova.
“Tennis has been and will always be a huge part of my life,” Seles, 34, said in a statement issued through her agent, Tony Godsick. “I have for some time considered are turn to professional play, but I have now decided not to pursue that," Seles said from Miami, Florida. "I will continue to play exhibitions, participate in charity events, promote the sport, but will no longer plan my schedule around the tour. I look forward to pursuing other opportunities with the same passion and energy that fueled my dedication to tennis and to devote more time to two of my passions - children and animals. I especially want to thank all my wonderful, loyal fans for all of their support for me over the years.”
Born in the former Yugoslavia and naturalized as a U.S. citizen, Seles – a double-fisted ball crusher once dubbed “Moanica” by the British tabloids - won 53 singles and six doubles titles and held the top ranking for a total of 178 nonconsecutive weeks. When she reached No. 1 in March 1991 she was the youngest player to do so.
What isn’t always remembered is that Seles was on a record setting pace when she was tragically knifed in the back at a match in Hamburg, Germany in 1993. At the time, she had won more majors at her age than any player in history. Great as Steffi Graf was, she would not have collected 22 majors had Seles been around during the two-plus years she spent away from tennis recovering.
To her credit, Seles came back and reached the U.S. Open final shortly after her return. A few months later, she captured a ninth and final major at the 1996 Australian Open. I dealt with Seles only a few times when I started covering tennis. I always found her polite, helpful and authentic. I believe she genuinely loved the game of tennis. What I remember most about watching her before then was her poise under pressure. No player was in her realm mentally when she was at her peak. She could block anything out and you just knew she would come up with an insane angle winner on the most pressure-filled moments in a match.
“Monica Seles is one of the great champions in the history of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, and an inspiration and role model for millions of fans throughout the world," CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Larry Scott said in a statement. “No one will ever forget the fierce determination and will to win that Monica brought to the court, nor the caring and warm person that she has always been off the court.” She, and the grunts, will be missed.
After three spectators were kicked out of the Diamond Games this week for betting on matches in real time with laptops in the stands, can discussions of banning cell phones be far off? I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m guessing that if you can bet online with a laptop you can do the same with a similarly enabled cell phone – or if you can’t do it now, the possibility isn’t far off. Now, can you imagine how this will play out when the women’s tour title sponsor is cell phone maker Sony Ericsson?
Road to Davis Cup Title No Highway for USA
The U.S. didn’t let down last weekend in dominating Austria on clay on the road. The road does not get easier. The U.S next hosts France in the quarterfinals at Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C., April 11-13. With Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and doubles standouts Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement, France boasts one of the deepest and most talented squads around (they destroyed Romania, by the way, 5-0). If they advance, the U.S. would likely play Spain away on clay in the semis - perhaps their toughest tie since losing to the Spaniards in the 2004 Davis Cup final in Seville. Powerhouses Argentina and Russia loom as potential final opponents. If the U.S. repeats as champions, it will be a super effort.