The vision never fades. It's that way when a lunatic suddenly emerges from a crowd to destroy his victim, offering shock value at its most severe instant. Always, even years later, you picture the trauma as if it occurred yesterday.
The disheartening truth is that we will never realize how magnificent Monica Seles could have been with a tennis racket clutched in her two-handed grip, amazing when you consider how truly unconquerable she was.
But perhaps because of that terrible day during a WTA Tour event in Hamburg in 1993 – when a German lathe operator and deranged Steffi Graf fan named Guenter Parche stabbed Seles between the shoulder blades – we have witnessed something far more valuable than her legend.
It's called her spirit.
Are you sitting down? She's 30. Three-oh. All grown up and sophisticated and as delightful as ever. The world blinked, and gone was that 17-year old phenom whose desire to crush every ball was just a tad more vigorous than the grunting that accompanied each groundstroke. She was marvelous. The best.
Seles was one of the first to relentlessly whack away no matter the match or its importance. She hit with as much force trying to save a decisive point in a Grand Slam final as she did in daily practice sessions. She was steadfast in her mission and dominant in her craft, winning eight Grand Slam events before the stabbing.
She has captured one since.
"It was a very special feeling what I had going in the early 1990s," says Seles. "Kind of like a storybook . . . I had that focus. It just came naturally to me. I was always in the moment, just me and the ball."
She didn't compete for more than two years after Parche's blade inflicted its physical and mental wounds, and for some time now Seles has either been tired or hurt. She wants to play one more year and depart on her own terms.
She deserves that much.