Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Why they continued to dither about a special ranking/seeding consideration for someone who had just made it clear that she wasn't coming back any time soon is strange -- and they are pretty much going to close the subject soon.
Tennis: Women's game split on Seles seeding: If the former world No 1 comes back, she may have to start again at the bottom.
Friday, April 29, 1994
A year after the stabbing of Monica Seles during a match in Hamburg, a dispute over the conditions of her comeback - assuming she ever makes one - threatens to divide women's tennis.
The 20-year-old Seles, who was the reigning world No 1 when attacked by an obsessive Steffi Graf supporter, will have neither a ranking nor a privileged seeding if Gerry Smith, the chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association, gets his way.
'My feeling,' Smith said yesterday, 'is that when Monica returns to the tour she'll have to fight her way back and perform to the point where she is able to work her ranking back, which I have no doubt she'll be able to do.
'I think there should be no special seeding consideration. I think she's been out too long, and it would be unfair and inappropriate to the tour and to the rest of the players. That's the position I will take when we discuss this at our next board meeting.'
It is likely to be Smith's last stand. He is due to step down as the WTA's chief executive and take a consultative position.
Tournament directors are aghast at the thought of Seles being drawn against top seeds in opening rounds. 'It's a nightmare scenario,' said George Hendon, who runs the women's events at Eastbourne and Brighton. 'We could have Monica Seles playing Steffi Graf on a wet Tuesday afternoon in Brighton.'
Seles has lost all her computer ranking points but as a past Grand Slam champion, she would be provided with wild cards for the main draw of tournaments. Initially, it was suggested that she be given a joint No 1 ranking with Graf. This was rejected in favour of a special seeding consideration.
'That thinking,' Smith said, 'was in anticipation that she might return before the end of last year. I feel now that she should be treated the same way we would treat any other player when they have been out for an extended period of time.
'Look at Tracy Austin. She is a former No 1 in the world. She has been given some wild cards and has got a ranking back and she's continuing to make a comeback.'
This hardly seems a fair comparison. Austin, aged 31, had been out of the game for nine years, long enough to be inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame, and the injuries which interrupted her career were not inflicted by a knifeman.
Seles, according to Smith, considers his proposal to be the best option open to her. 'From what I understand of her views from Stephanie Tolleson (her agent with International Management Group), Monica has taken the point of view that if we gave her a special seeding consideration, such as a co-No 1, she wanted to receive a co-ranking of No 1. We very much separated those two issues a little less than a year ago and decided that co-ranking her No 1 was inappropriate.
'Ironically, I think Monica would prefer not to be given a special seeding consideration. I think when she returns she wants the advantage of having to play some top players earlier in the tournament.'
The higher the ranking of her opponent, the more bonus points Seles can accumulate - but, in Hendon's opinion, Graf would virtually have to leave the game for Seles to overtake her from a standing start. 'I believe if Seles came back with zero points it would be impossible for her to take the No 1 spot,' Hendon said. 'Before the Hamburg tournament last year, when Seles was the top player, her average points were 270. Graf's average points now are 440.
'In fairness to Seles, in the first place, and certainly for the good of the sport, she must be allowed a reasonable opportunity to challenge for the No 1 spot. This can only happen if she is given enough points to start with.
'I think it would be wrong to put Seles back to where she was a year ago. That would be unfair to Graf, who has improved so much and achieved so much. But perhaps Seles could start with enough points to allow her to be seeded No 4, giving her an opportunity in the following 12 or 15 months, depending on how long she is out. She has got to be able to see that the sport is there to support her.'
Tournaments are desperate for Seles to make a comeback. While the loss a player of her calibre and personality would be a serious blow to the sport at any time, it could hardly have happened at a worse moment.
The women's game already lacked a sufficient depth of talent, and Graf has discovered that even those challengers capable of producing the right shots can be found wanting when it comes to nerve. Whether Seles still has the nerve to walk on a court, let alone challenge for honours, remains to be seen. Unlike her assailant, Gunther Parche, who was given a suspended prison sentence, she has not returned to work.