Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Glory hallelujah, a WTA official says something a little bit laudatory about Steffi. And for the record, a more full version of Smith's statement about freezing Monica's ranking: "I would hope it would not be a factor in her staying away, but at this stage no one rules out anything," said Smith, who hasn't spoken to Seles since the days after the attack. "We did what we thought was best for women's tennis and for the tour. We tried to evaluate our decision with regard to her request for a co-ranking at No. 1 in the context of how it would affect everyone. We came to the conclusion that providing her with a co-ranking for an unlimited amount of time would be inappropriate. And if anything the length of time she's been out suggests that decision was correct." So who can blame people for voting "no" to freeze Seles' ranking for an indefinite period? Maybe if the Seles camp had asked for only three or four months, they would have said yes. But to give a proven, unreliable drama queen a share of the top ranking for an unlimited length of time?
ON TENNIS; One-Year Anniversary That Can't Be Ignored
April 30, 1994
New York Times
It has been a year since Monica Seles, then the undisputed and too often unchallenged champion of women's tennis, was stabbed in the back at a tournament in Hamburg, Germany, by an insensible fan of Germany's Steffi Graf. An unprecedented act of violence that sent shock waves through the tennis community and beyond, the attack has continued to have significant repercussions, not the least of which is Seles' refusal to make the speediest possible return to the WTA Tour.
Paranoia has not only become justified, it has also become protocol. This week in Hamburg, it was Graf who received, and defied, a death threat -- but was never urged not to compete by her sport's governing body.
"Steffi is the object of a lot of attention, some of it unseemly, and we all worry for her," said Gerard Smith, head of the WTA Tour, "but the decision to play in Hamburg was a personal decision by her. Steffi's been very, very stoic about situations like this: she will not be threatened into changing the way she wants to live."
Life has gone on for the professionals who travel the women's tour, and Graf, just as Seles' attacker planned, has usurped Seles at her sport's pinnacle and captured four consecutive Grand Slam crowns.
But memories of an attack staged in broad daylight and in midmatch, and memories of the unconvincing strain of compassion sent Seles' way by her peers, remain a blight on the sport. Just as the Oct. 13, 1993, decision to sentence Gunther Parche, Seles' assailant, to a mere two years' probation remains a blight on the German judicial system and a source of fear for athletes on the tour.
"I don't think you can ever provide a 100 percent guarantee of safety," said Smith, who was en route to Hamburg yesterday. "But security has been enhanced, particularly for Steffi, and we've done some things that deal specifically with people lunging out of a crowd the way Parche did."
Smith said he planned to meet Monday with Hajo Wandschneider, a Hamburg attorney retained by the tour to press for a prison sentence for Parche.
"It's my understanding that the prosecutor has filed an appeal of the verdict, but beyond that I don't know too much yet," said Smith.
The sentencing judge in the case, Elke Bosse, said she believed the defendant's contention that he meant only to maim Seles, not kill her. Parche's nonsentence is being appealed, but there is no court date set, and it is Seles, whose career has been abruptly canceled, and not Parche, who has experienced a form of incarceration. The 20-year-old Seles has not played a match in a year, and if she does return to a tour that has been a downright sham without her, there is a new wound awaiting.
According to Smith, Seles will probably no longer receive any special seeding or ranking consideration when she returns to competition. The WTA Tour board favored a co-seeding of Seles alongside Graf as recently as January, when Seles was expected to combine her comeback with her quest for a fourth straight Australian Open title. But Seles' prolonged absence has altered their willingness to provide her with that comforting a welcome mat when she does return.
"The council agreed not to deal with this issue until Monica actually does come back," said Smith, "but it's my feeling that due to the length of time she's been off the tour, no special consideration in terms of rank or seeding should be given. She'll have to play her way back as would anyone else who'd been away this length of time. It's not fair to the other players to handle it differently."
The WTA Tour is already contending with complaints that the Graf-dominated tour is a dull tour -- complaints that have been issued even by Graf herself -- and that undue pressure from the business side of tennis has actually driven Jennifer Capriati out of the sport and contributed to Seles' decision to stay away. With all this, it seems the WTA Tour has begun to lose patience with Seles.
Since February, when she admitted that her mental renewal had not kept pace with her physical rehabilitation, the date of Seles' return has been little more than a guessing game. Last month, she became a United States citizen, as did her mother, Esther, but lately there are rumors that the ill health of her father and coach, Karolyi, is the main reason she isn't ready to compete.
There is also a suspicion that Seles, whose agents originally requested that she be co-ranked and co-seeded No. 1 with Graf upon her initial return, is staying away to punish the WTA Tour for not granting the request.
"I would hope it would not be a factor in her staying away, but at this stage no one rules out anything," Smith said. "We did what we thought was best for women's tennis and for the tour. And if anything, the length of time she's been out suggests that decision was correct."
But Smith added that he expected that Seles would prefer to play her way back onto the tour, and the player herself indicated last December that she would prefer not to be top-seeded if she was not also top-ranked.
"I have to beat the best players sooner or later anyway if I want to get back to the top," she said. "I don't know if I'll ever be the same player I was before the incident, but I love the game too much not to try."