40 LOVE Moments: The Seles Comeback
Published August 06, 2013 12:01
TORONTO, Canada - For more than two years everyone was hoping it would happen, and then it did, and it was right here in Toronto. Twenty-seven months after the most senseless act the sport had ever seen, Monica Seles made an emotional return to tennis at the Rogers Cup - back then known simply as the Canadian Open - and she didn't just lift the spirits of all of her fans, she lifted the trophy.
With her co-World No.1, Steffi Graf, getting bounced by giant-killer Amanda Coetzer earlier in the day, Seles walked onto center court on the Tuesday night as the favorite for the title, somewhat of a bizarre situation for her given she hadn't contested an official WTA-level match in more than two years.
And the situation was made even more difficult after a very rare sight in tennis - as she walked out onto the court with fellow American Kimberly Po, Seles was given a standing ovation from the crowd.
"I couldn't feel my legs," Seles would say about the gesture afterwards. "They were rubbery."
But Seles, who was always one of the most mentally tough players in the game, found her feet and started painting the lines like she had for years, and ended up cruising past Po that night, 60 63.
The belief was clearly still there for Seles - and she wasn't the only one who believed.
"It's great to see her back," Graf said. "She seems to be enjoying herself, and she's really fit.
"If somebody can do it, it's her."
During the final, Sabatini was in the commentary booth and talked about that semifinal match.
"I don't know if there were too many things I could have done differently yesterday," Sabatini said. "I didn't play badly. It just seems like as the matches go by, she's just playing better and better."
The draw came full circle in the final, as Seles had to face Graf's conqueror, Coetzer - it looked tricky right off the bat as Seles had to fight off three break points in the opening game, but once those were out of the way, she steamrolled. On match point, 51 minutes on the clock, Seles pummelled Coetzer with forehand angles, eventually drawing one last backhand slice into the net to end it, 60 61.
"She doesn't allow you to play your own game or even to time the ball well," Coetzer said afterwards.
"I just can't believe it," Seles said of her week. "Not playing for such a long time and playing so well out there, and having a great time out there as well, it's all really unreal - it's like, 'Wow.'
"To think that from that day to this day - what a difference."
Fast forward 18 years later to this week - on Monday night the now-retired Seles took part in a press conference just ahead of an exhibition match, and she was asked what this tournament means to her.
"I'm very excited to be back in Toronto. Obviously this tournament holds a lot of special memories for me. It was my first tournament back after a while, and any time I get invited back, I say yes."