Thursday 26 January 2012

Heroes of tennis: Monica Seles

The story of Monica Seles is one of the saddest stories in the recent history of sport. Although she won nine Grand Slam singles titles, who knows how many more it could have been were it not for the shattering knife attack by a fanatical fan of her greatest rival, Steffi Graf, in Hamburg in April 1993? Graf went on to win 22 Grand Slam singles titles, unrivalled in the Open Era. But at the time of Seles' stabbing, there was little doubt that it was Seles who had the upper hand. Graf, 4 years Seles' senior, had by April 1993 won 10 Grand Slam singles titles to Seles' 8, but after Seles' maiden triumph (at the 1990 French Open aged just 16), Graf had added just two Grand Slams to her tally - at Wimbledon in 1991 and 1992 (the latter being the only time in four Grand Slam finals between the pair where Graf prevailed) on Seles' least-favourite surface. Seles, in the meantime, won 3 out of the four available titles in both 1991 and 1992.

Seles returned to the sport in 1995 and promptly won the 1996 Australian Open title, but it proved to be her last. Were it not for the actions of one maniacal fan, the history of modern women's tennis would, I think, look very different.

A controversial figure during her playing days due to her characteristic grunting style, now to watching footage of Seles playing one realises that to complain about her vocal exercises would be akin to asking a man with a leaf blower to switch it off whilst a jumbo jet came in to land. The modern day ladies players have taken their own grunts, hoots and hollers to a whole new level of volume and absurdity. Perhaps one could argue that Seles started this trend off. However, not one of the whooping howler monkeys that have followed in her stead have been able to match the quality of her play or her overwhelming dominance of the sport.

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