Monica Seles, the famous former World No. 1 tennis player, and a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, who is regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, became the youngest ever French Open champion at the age of 16 in the year 1990. Here are some very interesting facts about the Serbian-American tennis player:
She was born on December 02, 1973, in Novi Sad, Serbia, to Ester and Karolj. She has an older brother, Zoltan.
Her father a professional cartoonist started coaching her from the age of five. He had been a physical education major in college and a top triple jumper, who knew nothing about tennis. He coached her brother and her by reading a book on the game.
She was interested in tennis seeing her brother play and was gifted a tiny wooden racket. She would hit against the brick wall of her house and played in the parking lot of the apartment. He encouraged her to play with two handed strokes which came naturally to her
At the age of eight she was ranked No. 1 junior tennis player in Yogoslavia and at the age of 11, in 1985 she won the Junior Orange Bowl tournament in Miami. Early in her career, she was coached by JelenaGencic.
In 1986, she along with her brother Zoltan enrolled at the Nick Ballettieri Tennis Academy. At the age of 14, in 1988, she played her first professional tournament as an amateur.
She turned professional on February 13, 1989, and won her first tournament at Virginia Slims in Houston on April 30, that year, defeating Chris Evert in her twilight years.
Seles reached world rank No. 6 at the end of 1989. She had creditable French Open where reached the semi-final and fourth round of Wimbledon that year, before losing both the time to Graff. She also reached fourth round of U.S Open, where she could only take two games of Evert in two sets.
She started the year 1990, winning six consecutive tournaments and went onto win a total of nine in all. She defeated Navratilova and Graff in five these finals.
Seles became the youngest French Open Champion at 16 years and 6 months. She defeated Steffi Graf in the final 7-6, 6-4, for her first Grand Slam title, saving four set points in the first set tiebreaker.
She ended the year on high winning the year-end Virginia Slims Championships, defeating Gabriela Sabatini in five sets. This was the first five-set women’s match since 1901 and became the youngest Season-Ending Championship winner.
She was ranked world No, 2 at the start of 1991 and by winning the Australian Open, she replaced Graff at top of WTA ranking list. She defeated Jana Novotna, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 for her first Australian Open title.
Seles defended her French Open in 1991 and added the U.S Open to her list. She consolidated her ranking with ten tournament victories out of sixteen she entered and had the distinction of reaching the finals of every tournament she entered that year.
She dominated the year 1992, winning the Australian, French and the U.S Open apart from reaching the finals of Wimbledon Championship. She also won the Year-End Championship at Virginia Slims, New York.
At the Wimbledon in 1992, she was objected for her grunting or shrieking noise when hitting the ball. Nathalie Tauziat in the quarterfinal and Navratilova in the semifinals complained to the chair umpire.
Seles won the 1993 Australian Open for the third consecutive year and followed it up with titles at Chicago and Paris. The title at Open Gaz de France was the last tournament before she was forced to take a break.
On April 30, 1993, during a quarterfinal match against Magdalena Maleeva in the Citizen Cup in Hamburg, Seles was stabbed at the back between her shoulder blades by a deranged fan of Steffi Graf.
Although her physical injury took only two weeks to heal, she did not return to tennis for more than two years. Until that incident she was in peek of her form winning 22 title in 33 finals out of 34 tournaments from January 1991.
She announced her return to competition on August 1995 with a win in the Canadian Open, beating Amanda Coetzer,in the finals. She was reinstated along with Steffi Graf as joined number one.
On March 16, 1994, Seles along with her motherbecame a Unites States citizen, after passing an examination in Miami. She had been living in U.S for nine years.
Seles reached the finals of 1995 U.S. Open her first Grand Slam after her return from injury. She was beaten by Steffi Graf in three sets. She defeated three seeded player on the way to finals.
On January 28, 1996, she won her ninth Grand Slam of her career and the fourth Australian Open defeating Anke Huber of Germany, 6-4, 6-1. This was her last Grand Slam victory.
Although she reached the finals of 1996 U.S Open and 1998 French Open, she lost both the finals. In run up to the finals of French, she had to overcome world no. 3 and 1, apart from grief of losing her father to cancer.
Her quest for medal at 1996 Atlanta Olympics was only realized at 2000 Sydney Olympics where she won abronze medal. She lost to Jana Novotna in the quarterfinals of Atlanta Olympics and after four years, she made it to semifinals before losing to Venus Williams. In the match for bronze medal, she beat JelenaDokic of Australia.
Since 1997, though her performance was dipping, she was regularly reaching the quarterfinals of grand slam and WTA Tour’s top 10 tournaments. In her last full season in 2002, she ended the year ranked no.7 winning two titles in Qatar Total Open and the Madrid Open.
She was the part of United States team winning the Federation Cup in 1996, 1999 and 2000. For her part shewon 17 of 19 matches she competed including doubles.
On February 14, 2008, Seles announced her official retirement from competitive tennis. From 2003, she was contemplating after injuries and poor performances. Then on she was only participating in exhibition matches till her retirement.
As early as 1990, she had endorsement deal worth $ 4 million, with ‘Fila’ for apparel and footwear. She was using Prince original graphite racket and later switched over to Yonex racket and Nike apparels.
On June 05, 2014, Seles was engaged to Billionaire Tom Golisano. They have been dating since 2009.
On April 21, 2009, she released her memoir ‘Getting A Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self,’ which chronicles her depression and binge eating disorder. In 2015, she signed a deal with Shiri Pharmaceuticals to promote BED awareness.
On July 11, 2009, she was inducted into the ‘International Tennis Hall of Fame’ and in 2011 was named one of the ’30 Legends of women’s Tennis: Past, Present and Future’ by Time.