No.1 Spotlight: Monica Seles
Published April 23, 2013 12:00
Monica Seles' father, Karolj, was a cartoonist by trade and encouraged her to play tennis as a young girl by drawing characters on tennis balls. By the time Seles graduated to the professional ranks at 14, though, she had developed a game that was more aggressor than artist.
The ferocity and precision of her ball striking - delivered with two hands from either wing - saw her quickly ascend the ranks, climbing to No.6 in the world by the end of her first year on the tour. And there was to be no slowing down. In 1990, Seles defeated great rival Steffi Graf to become the youngest player ever to win at Roland Garros, and she went on to win seven of the next 10 majors.
However, in 1993, at the peak of her powers, tragedy struck when she was stabbed in the back by a madman during a match in Hamburg. While the wound was not life-threatening and Seles returned to the tour two years later, winning the 1996 Australian Open and a further 20 titles, she never quite managed to recapture her early 1990s dominance.
• Won nine Grand Slam singles titles: four Australian Open, three Roland Garros and two US Open; one of seven women in Open Era to win three of the four Grand Slams
• In eight Grand Slams contested in 1991-93, won seven and was runner-up at 1992 Wimbledon, which was first Grand Slam final lost; only player in Open Era to win first six Grand Slam finals
• Won first 33 matches at Australian Open
• Youngest-ever winner at Roland Garros at 16 years, 6 months in 1990; also youngest winner of season-ending WTA Championships in 1990 (d. Gabriela Sabatini in first women's match to extend to 5 sets since 1901)
• Became youngest player to rank No.1 on March 11, 1991 (since surpassed by Martina Hingis). Her 178 non-consecutive weeks at No.1 is fifth-most all-time
• Her 21 straight singles finals reached from 1990-92 is tied for third-most of Open Era
• Her 53 WTA titles won is ninth-most of Open Era.
• Her eight games lost at 1992 Houston is tied with Chris Evert and Steffi Graf for fewest games conceded en route to a WTA title in a 16-28 size draw. Also, her 10 games lost at 1990 Tampa is tied for second-fewest games conceded en route to a WTA title in a 32-58 size draw
• Became a US citizen in Miami on March 16, 1994 and subsequently played on three winning US Fed Cup teams (1996, 1999 and 2000)
• Won singles bronze medal at 2000 Sydney Olympics
• Won WTA's Most Improved Player Award in 1990
• Won WTA's Player Of The Year Award in 1991 and 1992
• Won WTA's Comeback Player Of The Year Award in 1995 and 1998
• Inducted into International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009
• Goodwill Ambassador of IIMSAM (Intergovernmental Institution for use of Micro-algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition) to make Spirulina, a key driver to eradicate malnutrition, achieve food security and bridge the health divide in order to secure the United Nations Millennium Development Goals
• Academy member, Laureus; active in Sport For Good charitable projects