Getting to know Monica - TennisForum.com
 
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old Oct 13th, 2004, 06:59 AM Thread Starter
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Getting to know Monica

Monica Seles was five and a half years old the first time she picked up a tennis racket. She pulled on a headband--a bow to her idol, the great Swedish player Bjorn Borg--and strolled outside for practice session number one with her father.
It seemed at first glance, a typical prologue to a typical tale. Everyday, all over the world, parents introduce their children to the game of tennis. Some merely hope to pass on their affection for the sport. Others--the athletic equivalent of stage mothers--have something else in mind. They see greatness in those tiny limbs, or at least a potential for greatness. They see the child at the net volleying like Pete Sampras, or five feet behind the baseline blasting forehands like Andre Agassi. Blinded by love or avarice or ego, or some combination of the three, they look at their progeny and think they see a prodigy. They see fame and fortune. They see dollar signs.

And so they buy the best clothes and the best shoes and the best equipment, they hire the best instructors, and pretty soon the kid's life revolves around tennis. Day and night. Whether he likes it or not. It doesn't last though. Eventually he discovers that he lacks the talent or the drive...or whatever...to succeed as a professional. His parents are dissapointed. He is demoralized. But life goes on. If he's lucky, the scars do not run deep. He adjusts, adapts and harbors no resentment towards Mon and Dad, who must bear the responsibility for a childhood lost.
That sadly, is a tennis story.

It is not, however, the Monica Seles story. Not even close.

(to be continued)
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old Oct 13th, 2004, 07:21 AM Thread Starter
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Monica Seles was born on December 2, 1973, in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, the second and the last child of Karolj and Esther Seles. Her mother was a computer programmer, her father an award winning illustrator, documentary filmmaker, and physical education teacher. They made their home in a village near the Hungarian border; in fact, Hungarian was the language spoken in the Seles household.
Karolj was a gentle, philosophical man who happened to love athletics, so it was natural that he encouraged both Monica nd her older brother Zoltan, to participate in sports. Karolj, in his youth, had been a track and field star--one of the top triple jumpers in Europe. He believed that through sports, a child could find strenght of character. He believed as the ancient Greeks did, that a person was obligated to develop the body as well as the mind. But he also believed that life was too short and too precious to toil long and hard at something unpleasant. He understood intuitively what so many coaches either ignore or forget: the importance of having fun.
Two weeks after presenting his daughter with her first tennis racquet, Karolj listened intently and patiently as she gave a "retirement" speech. Already, she had enough. Forget about Borg--there were other role models for a little girl. In time, she'd find one.
Karolj wasnt the least bit angry with Monica. It wasnt his way to be hurt or upset. It was his way to way to move on. Whatever ambition Karolj may have had for his little girl, he set it aside when she declared her lack of interest. Someday perhaps, she would change her mind and when that happends, he would welcome her back with open arms and a broad smile. And they would start anew. Until then, he would continue to work with Zoltan, who had becaome a pretty respectable player in his own right.

(to be continued)

Last edited by Athena; Oct 14th, 2004 at 08:20 AM.
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old Oct 13th, 2004, 07:59 AM Thread Starter
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continued..
Two years later, Karolj was rewarded for his patience. Approriately enough, though, the revelatory moment that brought eight year old Monica back to the tennis court had nothing to do with passion for the game, rather, like any child, she watched the trophies piling up in her brother's room and felt a rush of envy. When Zoltan won a national junior title in 1982, the excitement surrounding his accomplishment triggered a response in Monica: She too wanted to be an athlete. "All His friends would come home to admire {his trophies}", Monica recalled during a 1992 interview with Vogue Magazine. "And she thought, "This could be fun."...
With Karolj serving as her mentor, there was virtually no chance that it wouldnt be fun. When dealing with an eight year old, however, the emphasis was not on technique or conditioning or developing mental tougheness. The emphasis was on enjoyment. As he had with Zoltan, Karolj started slowly with Monica. Instead of taking her to a public or private tennis court, where she might get intimidated by the surroundings, he took her to the parking lot outside their apartment building. There Karolj would hand a strand of rope between the bumpers of two cars and urge Monica to hit the ball over the net.
A truly innovative teacher, Karolj never lost sight of the fact that Monica was just a child. Even as she developed and graduated to practice sessions on real tennis courts, he would not allow their workouts to feel like work. To encourage Monica, he sometimes drew pictures of her favorite cartoon characters--Tom and Jerry--on the tennis balls. If she came upon a ball with Tom's picture on it, she would pretend she was Jerry and smack it with all her might. Karolj was a master at the subtle art of motivation. He never screamed or insulted his pupil. If he manipulated, he did so in a way that meant to enlighten and instruct. While it has been embraced by countless coaches throughout history, humiliation was never a part of Karolj Seles' educational repertoire. Her relationship with Monica was built on mutual respect.
During an interview with World Tennis Magazine years ago, Monica told noted sports psychologist and author Dr. Jim Loehr, "I'm very close to my father. We're as close as a father and daughter could be. Our personalities are almost the same. He's never been tough with me. I've never had problems with my father on the court. He's very gentle and I respect what he says about training and tennis".....
Loehr supported that contention after observing the Seleses at work. "Monica's relationship with her father is unique." Loehr wrote. "I've never seen either one get upset with the other on court. The atmosphere is always one of great serenity and warmth"...



(to be continued)

Last edited by Athena; Oct 14th, 2004 at 08:49 AM.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old Oct 13th, 2004, 01:44 PM
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Hope this isn't off topic Athena (if it is tell me and I'll zap myself )


Do you or anyone else have some of the illustrations or cartoons Karolj did. His job was pretty unique-and using cartoons to teach or relax Monica was a novel idea.

I recall he did one of Goofy-maybe Monica was playing a junior event called "Goofy"?
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old Oct 14th, 2004, 08:47 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rollo
Hope this isn't off topic Athena (if it is tell me and I'll zap myself )


Do you or anyone else have some of the illustrations or cartoons Karolj did. His job was pretty unique-and using cartoons to teach or relax Monica was a novel idea.

I recall he did one of Goofy-maybe Monica was playing a junior event called "Goofy"?
Rollo, I still remember that Goofy tourney in Florida many years ago but I don't think it still exist anymore. Monica who was only 11 years old played at the tournament and easily beat the BEST United States juniors player in that age bracket, 12 year old Kim Kessaris, who btw, happened to be a Bolletieri prodigy.
When Nick heard of the shocking news...he was desperate to meet Monica.

As to the illustrations that Karolj did, i don't what happened to it but most probably its all boxed up in Seles' garage together with her mindboggling trophie collection at her massive estate in Sarasota, FL....

One of the amazing things about Monica is she always keeps her private life separate from tennis. She does not even bring her racquets inside the house.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old Oct 14th, 2004, 09:16 AM Thread Starter
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continued..

Karolj's unorthodox teaching methods produced a highly unorthodox player. Monica, a natural lefty, was encouraged to swing with two fists on both sides of the ball. So while her backhand is natural--with the right hand on top--her forehand was awkward. In order to execute it properly, Monica had to run around the ball and twist her body into the shot. This type of grip placed serious demands on its user: It required greater concentration and speed than a traditional forehand; moreover, it reduced the player's reach.
But where others sae weakness, Karolj saw strength. "My father wanter her to play that way and she accepted it" Zoltan told Sports Illustrated years ago. "She like it that way"

Almost from the very beginning, the two fister forehand was one of Monica's greatest weapons. She was a tiny yet tireless girl, capable of running down every ball, chasing it into the corner, contorting her body like a corkscrew, and then whap!--ripping a winner down the line. With each powerful stoke, Karolj would smile. Unorthodox? Perhaps. Effective? Absolutely.

Within a few months, Karolj realized his daughter was not just another moderately talented kid who had benefitted from an early start. She was...unique. She could practive for hours on end, never complaining, never whining, never losing focus. She abosorbed everything, like a sponge. And she seemed to actually enjoy the workouts.

Karolj would marvel at Monica's speed and power. Where did it come from? But she was blessed in less obvious ways. She had huge hands, with long delicate fingers--artist's hands--and like some Pinball Wizard of the tennis scene, such supple wrist. The elastacity produced a slingshot effect each time she swatted the ball, promprting more than one observer to stand slack-jawed at the sight of an 8 year old with the professional groundstroke, a little waif of a girl capable of throttling opponents ten years her senior. Looking back, even Monica herself had trouble comprehending her rapid development. 'i've seen the tapes and I really cant believe it" she told Vogue Magazine. "It's unbelievable how hard I could hit the ball at that age."

Monica was only 9 years old when she won the Yugoslavian 12 and under championship, a feat even made more impressive by the fact that she barely understood the parameters of the sport. To her, it was simple: Hit the ball, run, hit the ball again. Beyond that well, Monica knew nothing. She did not even know how to keep score--she kept turning to Zoltan, a constant companion during tournaments, and asking whether she was winning or losing.

Usually of course, she was winning. If Monica had only a rudimentary understanding of the rules of the game, she knw enough to keep moving, to keep swinging. Most important of all, she had talent her opponents could only imagine.

In 1984, at the age of 10, Monica won the European 12 and under championship. In 1985, as an 11 year old, she not only defended her European title, but was named Yugoslavia's Sportswoman of the year--a very remarkable accomplishment considering no one under the age of 18 had ever won the award.

It was also in 1985 that Monica finished first in the 12 and under division of the Orange Bowl Tournament in Miami. Then she caught the attention of famed instructor Nick Bolletieri, whose respected tennis academy in Bradenton, FL included such starts as Andre Agassi and Jim Courier. Bollettieri sat in the stands beneath the glowing Florida sun, working on his infamous tan, when he was suddenly riveted by what he saw: a scrwny kid, all arms and all legs, scrambling around the court like a waterbug, pausing only to take the ball on the rise and smack it back at her opponent with such ferocity that it took his breath away.

(to be contnued)
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old Oct 14th, 2004, 09:34 AM Thread Starter
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continued...

Bolletirri had seen a lof in his day. He had worked with some of the best players in the history of the game. But this player...this child..was different. He knew that right away; She was the type of athlete who came along once in a lifetime. She was special. She was brilliant.

He was so impressed that he offered Monica, a full scholarship and invited the entire family to come and live at the academy. "She was all feet and could barely see over the net. But she could play!

The Seleses were an extremely close knit family, supportive and loving but wary of outsiders. Still Karolj understood what the other meant. And so did Monica. She was not even a teenager but she knew she wanted to become one of the best tennis players in the world. For a number of reaons, the goal would likely prove to be elusive, if she remained in Yugoslavia. Years ago, Monica discussed the factors that contributed to her decision to pull up roots at such a tender age. "In my town, there wasnt even an indoor court" Monica noted.

Additionally, Seles said, there were more opportunities in the United States, for girls who wanted to participate in athletics in the United States. In Yugoslavia, she faced a double dose of discrimination: the fiest as a tennis player; the second as a female.

"There;s the whole attitude towards girls", Monica said. "Everybody thought I was crazy and parents were crazy when I wanted to be an athlete and there were all this discussions about whether it was good for me to play tennis". "I think its not good for a child to have to listen to all this. That's why I had to leave"..Monica added.

Sin 1986, at the age of 12, Monica packed her bags. Accompanied at first only by Zoltan, she set out for America: Land of Opportunities and Dreams...and year round tennis.

(to be continued)
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old Oct 14th, 2004, 09:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Athena
Additionally, Seles said, there were more opportunities in the United States, for girls who wanted to participate in athletics in the United States. In Yugoslavia, she faced a double dose of discrimination: the fiest as a tennis player; the second as a female.

"There;s the whole attitude towards girls", Monica said. "Everybody thought I was crazy and parents were crazy when I wanted to be an athlete and there were all this discussions about whether it was good for me to play tennis". "I think its not good for a child to have to listen to all this. That's why I had to leave"..Monica added.
?????????????????????


What the F*CK??? I don't know if she really said it, but if she did, it's pure BS.

First, it's true that here women's sports are less popular than men's. But it's like that in the whole world.
Second, back in the 1980's there were even more girls in sports than today. Women's handball was one of THE most popular sports in Yugoslavia and those girls were real stars. It's not like Monica was the only female athlete.
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