Monica interview, Chicago Tribune, May 5th
A Monica fan, Sam, posted this on another board:
Seles ponders exiting: Chicago Tribune
May 5, 2002
Of all the things that conspire to age us--gravity, the newfound discovery of heartburn and a conversation with a younger neighbor in which she looks at you quizzically as you recall bringing a hot pot and an electric typewriter to college--finding out that Monica Seles is 28 years old has to be on the list.
That Seles, who made her pro debut at 14, is still playing tennis, is still winning and is ranked No. 6 in the world provides some solace. So too do the giggles that still punctuate her conversation and a disposition that has to be one of the most resilient in all of sports.
More and more she contemplates the idea of retirement, mostly because she is asked. But like most great athletes, what she eventually determines is the right time to leave the game will have little to do with what we as fans perceive to be the perfect ending. It will have more to do with the voice that speaks to all of them, presumably telling them when they are truly ready.
This becomes clear when Seles is asked if she would consider retiring if the ideal conclusion presented itself . . . say, one more Grand Slam title, something that has eluded her since the 1996 Australian Open.
"Life is not a storybook," Seles responds. "You have to do what works for you, what makes you happy. You can't make everybody else happy or sad. Obviously you want to be honorable about it. But it's not always the perfect picture."
Seles still hits a tennis ball as hard as ever, but the women around her have caught up. She is in her best shape in a long time, but her competitors have been getting fitter for years. Seles is still mentally tough, but the well of reserve, so plentiful in her prime, isn't as deep.
"I can't go back 10 or 12 years," she explains. "I'm in a different place as a person."
It was nine years ago last week that Guenter Parche, a deranged German who wanted to see Steffi Graf regain the top ranking, came out of the crowd during a changeover in Hamburg and plunged a knife just below Seles' left shoulder blade. She was the No. 1 player in the world at the time.
Seles left the tour for 27 1/2 months, saw her No. 1 standing evaporate, watched Graf take over No. 1 as the WTA refused to freeze the rankings, dropped out of the year-end championships when they were moved to Germany and lost the most important man in her life--and the best coach she ever had.
Her father Karolj's death from cancer in May 1998 "left such a void," Seles says. "It was so hard because he shared such a big part of my life and he knew what I loved. I still miss him every day."
It can be argued that Seles was never really the same physically after that dark day in Hamburg, and never the same mentally after her father died. The years after the stabbing were stolen from her at the peak of her career, and if anyone could be bitter about what might have been, it is she.
"I can't say whatever was meant to be was meant to be," she says. "When I look back, I'm sure my career, in terms of achievement, would have been different if I hadn't been stabbed, and I'll always wonder why I'm the only one in history who that ever happened to.
"But that was the course my life took. It was beyond my control and I have to let it go. I don't want to think what could have been."
Seles is involved in fundraising for the American Stroke Association and long has been active in promoting the Special Olympics. But she is tiring, and she sees the perils that the WTA Tour continues to bring to its top players.
"There are too many tournaments now, too many injuries," she says. "And there are no more easy matches. You have to be up from the first round on and you have to play more and more tournaments to maintain your ranking. It's something the tour will have to look at or they're going to lose top players."
There's no compelling reason Seles can't win another major. She defeated Venus Williams in the quarters of the Australian Open this year, and in Miami in March she had an epic match against No. 1-rated Jennifer Capriati before losing a third-set tiebreaker.
But it won't be easy. An April foot injury caused Seles to withdraw from one tournament. She was upset by a 109th-ranked qualifier in Charleston, S.C., and last week lost a Federation Cup match to 75th-ranked Barbara Schwartz of Austria.
If she is hearing that voice tell her it's almost time, she won't let on. The voice she hears most often now is older and wiser but still giggles occasionally, still tells her what's in her heart.
"As a little girl, I played tennis because I loved it. I never imagined it being a career," she says. "Then when I made it my career and did well, there was a lot of pressure, especially to be No. 1, and there was a time when I was overwhelmed by that pressure.
"But I've always enjoyed playing the game. And that's what I missed when I was away from the sport. That's why I stay. I just love it, and I hope to continue to play when I retire from the competitive side. I just enjoy hitting the ball. I couldn't care less about another match."