Seles ready for 'lasts push' of her career
Seles ready for 'last push' of her career
By ARIEL DAVID, Associated Press Writer
May 14, 2003
AP - May 13, 1:46 pm EDT
ROME (AP) -- Monica Seles still enjoys playing tennis, and hopes to overcome a lingering foot injury to win her 10th Grand Slam title.
``I know I'm definitely in a very late stage of my career,'' she said. ``That's why I'm trying to give it a last push.''
On Tuesday, the 10th-seeded American won her first-round match at the $1.3 million Italian Open, a key clay-court tuneup for the French Open.
Seles, 29, rallied to contain a strong challenge by Myriam Casanova of Switzerland and beat her 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
``It was a hard-hitting match,'' Seles said. ``She just came out and was hitting the ball very hard, and it took me a while to adjust to that.''
Casanova, making her debut in Rome, came up with a string of aces and winners in the first set. But as the match wore on, Seles began to win longer rallies.
Seles, who won this tournament in 1990 and 2000, received constant encouragement from the Foro Italico crowd. After the match, a group of fans clad in U.S. flags presented the naturalized American with a dozen red roses.
``I've really got some amazing fans here,'' she said. ``They've been with me since 1990. So that's loyal.''
Seles faces Nadia Petrova of Russia in a second-round match Wednesday.
The American has been struggling with a nagging injury to her left foot which forced her to pull out of the doubles tournament.
But she's not ready to give up the game.
``As long as I can play it at a good level and my body lets me play it, I'm happy,'' she said. ``For me, it's just the joy of playing tennis. That's why I picked up a racket when I was a little girl in Novi Sad.
``The love for the game is really the only thing that has stayed very continuous in my life.''
Seles, who grew up in what is now Serbia and Montenegro and moved to the United States in the mid 1980s, began playing tennis with her father in a parking lot.
``If this or any other is my last tournament, I'm also very happy because I know I've had a wonderful career and have some really great memories,'' she said.
AP - May 13, 1:45 pm EDT
Since entering professional tennis in 1989, Seles has an impressive record that includes 53 singles titles and a 178-week reign at the top of the rankings.
But right now, the woman to beat is Serena Williams.
On Tuesday, the top-seeded player and defending champion met a stiff opponent in Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic in her first match.
The American overcame two breaks of her serve in the first set to win 6-4, 6-3.
``She was striking it well and very deep,'' Williams said. ``Some of her balls were off the line. That was good practice for me. The next match, I'll be ready for the pace as well as the slow ball.''
Three other Americans lost. Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain defeated Meilen Tu 6-4, 6-4; Fabiola Zuluaga of Colombia cruised past Alexandra Stevenson 6-1, 6-1, and sixth-seeded Chanda Rubin fell to France's Emilie Loit 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.