Monica Seles' Biography

by James

Let us first start out by saying that this biography, like any other, is not word for word. We can only hope that the information that we have collected on Monica is in fact correct.

The Early Years:

Monica was born on December 2, 1973 in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia to parents Karolj and Esther Seles. Monica is the youngest of two children. Her brother Zoltán, was 8 years old when Monica was born. Tennis first caught the eye of Monica when she was six years old because Zoltán became interested in the sport, and was bringing home cool looking trophy's. Tennis was not a popular sport in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia at that time. So Karolj had to drive to Italy nearly 10 hours away just to pick up racquet's for his children. Novi Sad only had 4 clay tennis courts to play on, which made it really tough for Monica & Zoltán to get a court to practice on. So Monica, Zoltán, & their father practiced a lot in the parking lot or up against the wall of their apartment complex. It all started in that parking lot in Novi Sad.

At the time, Karolj worked as an artist/cartoonist to make money to support his family and Esther also worked to support the household. To make tennis fun for Monica, he used to draw Tom & Jerry cartoons on the tennis balls. He made tennis fun for her! While Monica was still learning; Zoltán after only a short time playing, became a top junior player in Europe. This was the beginning of Monica's tennis career, this little girl who just loved to hit the ball. Little did they know at that time that Monica would go on to become one of tennis' all time greats.

By the time she was 8, she had become the number 1 junior player in Yugoslavia. In the following two years, she had become the best junior player in the world.

Nick Bolletteri first saw 11 year old Monica at the Sport Goofy tournament at Disney world in Florida. Nick and the Seles family met shortly afterwards and he invited her to come train with him for 2 weeks at his academy in Florida (for her to see what his academy was like). Unfortunately it cost a lot of money to attend and the Seles' were not ready for that. But one year later, Nick and Monica met up again and he offered Monica a scholarship to come train with him in Florida. At this time, Monica was the #1 junior player in the world and had already won the Junior World Championships a couple of times. This time, he offered for her to come train at his academy for free - he just wanted her to train there no matter what, she was too good to pass.

At the age of 12, Monica and her brother left Novi Sad for Florida. While in Florida and out of her father's supervision & coaching, Monica began to lose part of her game. Nick and his coaches were teaching Monica to use what was considered to be the "normal" one handed forehand more (instead of the 2 hands off both sides which Monica had grown accustomed to), as well as feeling homesick and missing her parents. So a few months later, Karolj took a leave of absence from work and came to visit Monica at the Academy to see how things were going, and was not happy to discover how she was being coached and that her confidence in herself and game had fallen off. He told the coaches "this is how she plays" and that he would stay and work with Monica. By 1987 with her dad there supporting and coaching her (as well as Nick Bollettieri at times), she had gotten her ground strokes and her confidence back on track.

Monica played her first Professional tournament as an Amateur in March of 1988 at the Virginia Slims of Florida, at the age of 14. She won her first match 7-6, 6-3! At the match, Steffi Graf, Gabriela Sabatini, and Chris Evert (who was to play Monica next if she were to win), all came to watch and see just who was this girl! Monica lost to Evert in the next round, but it definitely got the tennis world whispering. After that tournament, she only played 2 more tournaments as an Amateur that year, reaching the Semi-finals at the Virginia Slims of New Orleans and ending with a 5-3 win/loss record for the year.

1989:

On February 13, 1989, at 15 years old, Monica turned professional and entered the WTA rankings at #88 in the world. In only her 2nd tournament as a pro, she won her first WTA Singles Title in Houston, TX, by winning her rematch over Chris Evert in the final, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. This was the start of Monica's professional career and she never looked back!

In her first Grand Slam attempt, the 1989 French Open, Monica fought her way through to the semifinals (defeating world No. 5 Zina Garrison and No. 7 Manuela Maleeva), to play the then #1 player in the world, Steffi Graf. Although Steffi won in a tough 3 set match, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, Monica's first Grand Slam attempt was an awesome display of what was to come in the following year. Her ranking improved to No.14 after her semifinal feat, and then she also reached the 4th round at Wimbledon and the US Open. In September, she broke into the Top 10 for the first time, less than a year after debuting in the rankings. At the end of the season, she qualified for the Season Ending Championships, but lost in the quarterfinal to world No.2 Navratilova 7-5 in the third set. With an amazing 33-8 win/loss record for her first year as a professional, she ended the year as the #6 ranked player in the world.

1990:

In 1990, Monica went on a 36 match winning streak to win the following tournaments back to back:

  • Lipton Player's Championships
  • U.S. Women's Hard Court Championships
  • Eckerd Open
  • Italian Open
  • Lufthansa Cup
  • French Open

At the Lufthansa Cup (the German Open), it was the first time since the merge of East and West Germany that both sides were getting to come together and enjoy this sporting event together. Also attended by the president of Germany at the time. All came to watch their beloved Steffi Graf play the final, and hopefully win. Unfortunately for Graf, standing on the other side of the net was Monica who was riding her own winning streak into the final. Just 2 weeks before she had thrashed Navratilova at the Italian Open Final 6-1, 6-1. In the press conference, Martina stated that she felt like she had "been run over by a semi-truck". Winning her 5th tournament in a row, Monica defeated Steffi Graf in Germany, 6-4, 6-3. And then went on to win her first Grand Slam at the French Open over Steffi 7-6, 6-4, becoming the youngest Champion to ever win Roland Garros at 16 years, 6 months (a record that still has never been surpassed)!

Her winning streak was stopped by Zina Garrison at Wimbledon in the quarterfinals which went to 9-7 in the 3rd set. Then Monica went on to play the Virginia Slims of Los Angeles and won the title against Martina Navratilova 6-4, 3-6, 7-6. She then defeated her again in winning the Oakland California tournament, in straight sets 6-3, 7-6. Monica ended the year at the Virginia Slims Championships at Madison Square Garden and won over Gabriela Sabatini 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 (in the first five-set women's match since 1902 US Championships, and becoming the youngest to ever win the Season-Ending Championships). Monica had won 9 out of the 15 tournaments she entered in 1990 with a 54-6 win/loss record for the year, and had improved her ranking to #2 in the world. An amazing year!

1991:

In 1991, Monica won the following tournaments:

  • Australian Open
  • Lipton International (Monica becomes #1)
  • Virginia Slims of Houston
  • French Open (Defended her title)
  • Virginia Slims of Los Angeles
  • U.S. Open
  • Nichirei International
  • Milano Indoor
  • Virginia Slims of Philadelphia
  • Virginia Slim Championships in New York (Defended her title)

On March 11th, Monica became the youngest #1 player in the world (at the time) at 17 years 3 months, overtaking Steffi Graf and becoming only the 5th player in history to reach the #1 spot since the rankings were started in 1975. Playing at the Australia Open for the first time, she got to the Final and defeated Jana Novotna to win her second Grand Slam Title 5-7, 6-3, 6-1, in a outstanding 3 set match. Winning her second French Open in a row, she easily dispatched Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the Final 6-3, 6-4. She then skipped Wimbledon and was under a fire of controversy surrounding her disappearance. The reason given to Wimbledon authorities was that she had a "minor medical emergency". Media speculation in tabloids suggested outrageous explanations regarding her last minute withdrawal of Wimbledon - "she was pregnant, abducted by aliens, and that she was hiding out at the Donald Trump estate, etc". It was later explained that she had shin splints from accidentally hitting her shin with her racquet after a serve. Shortly after she appeared on the David Letterman show. David Letterman asked her questions regarding all the media speculation surrounding the Wimbledon withdrawal and she explained what really had happened; That she had an injury and couldn't play, but had a good laugh at all the crazy stories in the tabloids.

But then she showed up to play an exhibition after Wimbledon and was photographed holding up a t-shirt that had the names of the Grand Slam events with Wimbledon scratched off, and the name of the exhibition tournament in its place. Monica later said that she didn't know what the shirt said and that a man from the Event gave it to her to hold up as she was taking media photographs and didn't realize the implication. However, it was not good publicity and a lot of the UK was not happy either.

At the U.S. Open, the 17-year one-month age gap between Monica (17 years, 9 months) and Navratilova (34 years, 10 months), was widest in a Grand Slam final in Open Era. Monica went on to defeat Martina Navratilova in the Final 7-6 (7-1), 6-1, for her first U.S. Open title! She won 3 more Titles after the Open before arriving at the Year End Championships in Madison Square Garden in New York. She fought all the way to the Final and defeated Martina Navratilova again, in a best of 5 set match. Monica won 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 6-0. It was an amazing end to another great season! Won 10 out of the 16 tournaments she entered (reaching the Final of every tournament that she entered)! She won the 3 Grand Slams that she had entered in 1991, the Australian Open, the French Open, and the U.S. Open. She now had won 4 Grand Slam titles and was the season ending #1 player in the world with a 74-6 win/loss record for the year!

1992:

At the Australian Open she had no problem defeating world No.4 Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario in the semifinal 6-2, 6-2, and then easily defeating world No.7 Mary Jo Fernandez in the Final 6-2, 6-3 for her second Australian Open in a row! Then she went on to win the Essen Classic, Evert Cup, Houston, Barcelona, Monica was pretty much dominating the tour. At the French Open she easily defeated world No.5 Jennifer Capriati in the quarterfinals, then defeated world No.3 Gabriela Sabatini in a tough 3 set match 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the semifinals. In the Final, she played Steffi Graf in a classic 3 set match that went on to be one of the all time great matches, with Monica prevailing 6-2, 3-6, 10-8. Monica was now only the 2nd woman to have won the French Open 3 times in a row (since Hilde Sperling did it in 1935-37)!

Monica's celebration didn't last long since she was to play Wimbledon just a few weeks after the French. Unfortunately for Monica, the British were not too happy with her because of last years disappearance. Through out the tournament she was being harassed by journalist and media about the disappearance the year before, and for the grunting during play. The media even stated that they had what they called a "Grunt-o-meter" set up courtside, to record the velocity of her grunts during her matches. They also organized a contest where you could call in and record your own grunt like Monica, and the winning person got some kind of prize. She also had a bomb threat - it was ridiculous. During the quarterfinals, world No.14 Nathalie Tauziat complained to the chair umpire that Monica was being too loud. Which prompted world No.4 Martina Navratilova during their semifinal showdown to complain as well. This time, the chair umpire gave Monica a warning. Later in the match Navratilova complained again prompting the chair umpire to bend over during a change over and tell Monica to keep it down - which she replied "I'm trying the best that I can". Monica eventually won the match 6-2, 6-7, 6-4.

But in the rain soaked final that had to be delayed during play at one point because of the rain, she made a big mistake and tried to be quiet during the match. The grunting controversy finally took its toll on her. She tried to play the final without grunting since everyone acted like it was a big deal and she was getting so much backlash for it - but unfortunately it backfired, she was too bothered about trying to be quiet that her game lacked the sting that it usually does, as well as the grass was extremely slick from the rain. She lost easily to Steffi Graf 6-2, 6-1.

By the time the U.S. Open began, she was back in full grunt again and winning as usual. Destroying her opponents each round with those amazing ground strokes and just losing a few games here and there. Without losing a set in getting to the Final, she defeated Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-3, 6-3 to win her 2nd U.S. Open in a row (her 7th Grand Slam title)! Then she went on to win the Nichirei International, Bank of the West Classic, and the Year End Championships (for the 3rd time in a row) over Martina Navratilova 7-5, 6-3, 6-1.

She ended the year again as the #1 player in the world. Won 10 out of the 15 tournaments she entered (again reaching the Final of every tournament that she entered except for one, where she reached the quarterfinal). Duplicating her previous years success, she defended her titles all the way by winning again at the Australian Open, the French Open, and at the U.S. Open. With a 70-5 win/loss record for the year, she was also the youngest player to have won 30 titles before her 19th birthday.

1993:

Monica started 1993 off strong winning the Australian Open for the 3rd time in a row (her 8th Grand Slam), defeating Steffi Graf 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 & then winning the Virginia Slims of Chicago over Martina Navratilova; But then she lost to Navratilova at the Paris Indoors Final in a third set Tie-breaker halting her 34-match win streak. A viral infection forced her out of Indian Wells, Miami, Hilton Head and Barcelona, but returned to play at the Citizen Cup in Hamburg, Germany in April. But on April 30th, with Monica leading 6-4, 4-3 in her quarterfinal match vs Magdalena Maleeva (while the players were sitting down during a change-over), She was stabbed in the back by a crazy Steffi Graf fan who felt that Monica had to be stopped so that Graf could regain the #1 position, which had been held by Monica for the past 2 years. He got up from his seat acting as if he was gonna just walk by, but instead pulled out a knife from a bag he was holding and leaned over the railing and stabbed her in the back just below her left shoulder blade. The wound healed quickly but the psychological effects took its toll on her and she went into seclusion for 2 1/2 years. Not too long after the stabbing, the WTA held a meeting with the Top 10 players and they voted to not freeze Monica's ranking while she recovers, and so therfore her ranking fell to #8 by the year end. The only player that voted to freeze Monica's ranking was Gabriela Sabatini. When Monica turned 20 years old on December 2nd, she had amassed 8 Grand Slams; Giving her the record for the most Grand Slams won by a teenager since the Open Era of tennis began in 1968 (a record that has never been surpassed since). The only other player to have won more Grand Slams as a teenager than Monica, was Maureen Connolly who won 9 (but she accomplished this feat before the introduction of the Open Era).

1995:

After a fairly long absence from tennis and after becoming a U.S. citizen in 1994, Monica returned to the game in 1995. The tennis world was just so excited to have her back. Everyone was, except maybe her tennis opponents. Surprisingly she was granted by WTA a co-ranking of #1 with Graf (for her first 6 tournaments), and won her first tournament back as a wildcard entry, at the Canadian Open defeating Amanda Coetzer in the Final (set tournament record for least number of games dropped by the champion throughout the tournament (14) which is a record that still has not been surpassed). At the U.S. Open, playing in her first Grand Slam in 2 1/2 years (but having to wear a knee brace because she was suffering from tendonitis after the Canadian Open), she defeated world No.10 Anke Huber, No.5 Jana Novotna, No.3 Conchita Martinez (all in straight sets to reach the Final), before falling to Graf in the Final 7-6(6),0-6,6-3 after holding set point in the first set. Monica was just so excited to be back playing tennis again, and so was the tennis world. Tennis thrived again because Monica was back! The game needed her. Although she had to withdraw from the Oakland tournament and Season-Ending Championships due to the tendonitis in her left knee; Ending the season with a 11-1 win/loss record for the year and Co-ranked #1 in the world.

1996:

In 1996, Monica started off great winning the Sydney Tournament defeating world No.12 Lindsay Davenport in the Final 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 after being down match point. Then she won her 9th Grand Slam at the Australian Open for the 4th time (having never lost a match in Australia), defeating world No.9 Anke Huber 6-4, 6-1. She also won Eastbourne defeating Mary Joe Fernandez in the Final 6-0, 6-2 (her 1st grass court title), and then won the Canadian Open for the 2nd time in a row defeating world No.2 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the Final 6-1, 7-6. At the U.S. Open she didn't even lose a set in getting to the Final (even dispatching world No.3 Conchita Martinez in the semifinal 6-4, 6-3), but lost to Steffi Graf in the Final 7-5, 6-4. She then traveled to Tokyo and won the Tokyo Nichirei International over Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-1, 6-4. She got to participate at the Olympics representing the USA and defeated Gabriela Sabatini in the 3rd round before falling to Jana Novotna in the quarterfinal 8-6 in the third set. She also teamed up to play Fed Cup through out the year which helped the USA team win the title over Spain, winning the final match over Sanchez-Vicario. But retired during the Year End Championships 1st round against Kimiko Date due to left shoulder pain. Then in December during a warm up before an exhibition with Martina Hingis while practicing serves, broke her right ring-finger when she tried to catch a ball in mid flight after Hingis served; Ending the season with a 47-8 win/loss record and ranked #2 in the world.

1997:

Due to the broken right ring-finger sustained during warmup before exhibition in December 1996, was unable to defend her Australian Open crown at the beginning of the year and it kept her out of the game until March; Resulting in her ranking falling to No.6. Returned at Miami tournament reaching the final there for first time since winning in 1991, but lost to world No.1 Martina Hingis; and then made it to the final of Hilton Head, but lost again to world No.1 Martina Hingis 7-6 in the third. During her 4th round win over Mary Pierce at the French Open, we (Ronny and James) became fans of Monica and started watching tennis and following her results. She reached the semifinal and extended Martina Hingis to 3 sets, but lost 6-7, 7-5, 6-4; Elevating her back to No.2 in the world.

Monica then won back-to-back titles to win the Acura Classic over world No.7 Lindsay Davenport 5-7, 7-5, 6-4, and the Canadian Open (for the 3rd time in a row) over world No.8 Anke Huber 6-2, 6-4. A 14-match win streak was halted in the U.S. Open quarterfinal, where she held match point on Irina Spirlea before falling 6-7, 7-6, 6-3. She then traveled to Tokyo and won the Tokyo Princess Cup over world No.10 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-1, 3-6, 7-6. Qualifying for the Season-Ending Championships, Arantxa got her rematch though in the 1st round and defeated Monica in a tough 3 set battle 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. Ending the season with a 45-13 win/loss record and ranked #5 in the world.

1998:

In 1998, we (Ronny & James) started MonicaSelesSite.com. She missed the first three months of season to be with family, due to her father's battle with cancer. And just a few weeks before the French Open was to start, Monica's father passed away from the 5 year battle with cancer. He left this earth a wonderful and compelling person who would have done anything to bring happiness to his family and to all that knew him. Monica not only lost her father and coach, but also her best friend. God bless him.

Monica entered the 1998 French Open just weeks after her father's death with little and lots of hope. She, with her father's wedding ring bouncing around her neck, made it all the way to the Final. Every match she was getting condolences from opponents, friends, and fans who knew what she was going through (Which probably also made it harder for her to concentrate on tennis), but still played fairy-tale like tennis throughout the tournament. She defeated world No.3 Jana Novotna in the quarterfinals 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, and then demolished world No.1 Martina Hingis (for the 1st time) in the semifinals 6-3, 6-2, but lost in the final to world No.5 Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario 7-6, 0-6, 6-2.

She went on to win the Canadian Open (for the 4th time in a row) defeating world No.1 Martina Hingis in the semifinal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, and then world No.4 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the Final 6-3, 6-2. And also won both the Singles & Doubles at the Tokyo Princess Cup. The end of 1998 brought Monica to the Year End Championships, where Monica faced Steffi Graf for the 1st time since the 1996 U.S. Open Final. They played each other in the 2nd round after Monica defeated Kournikova in the 1st round 6-4, 6-3. Monica came out blasting the ball all over the place and took the 1st set 6-1. Graf came back to win the 2nd set with a tough 6-4. Both players were hitting winners and playing great tennis through out the whole match, with Graf prevailing 6-4 in the 3rd (for a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 win for Graf); Ending the season with a 46-13 win/loss record and ranked #6 in the world. In career earnings, she passed the $10 Million mark (only the 4th to do so).

1999:

Monica started 1999 off with a trip to the Australian Open for the 1st time in 3 years. She had never been defeated in Australia ever. Blasting her way through the draw, she met back up with Steffi Graf once again in a very much anticipated quarterfinal match. Monica and Steffi played some outstanding tennis once again, but this time Monica was victorious in straight sets. After coming back from behind in the 1st set to win 7-5, Monica just blasted Steffi in the 2nd set 6-1 (for a 7-5, 6-1 win for Seles). Monica had placed herself in the semifinals of the Australian Open once again, and was still undefeated with a 33-0 Australian win streak! Waiting in the semifinals though was Martina Hingis who was also riding her own Australian success story. Unfortunately though, Monica lost to Hingis on that hot and sunny day 6-2, 6-4, breaking her winning streak and putting Hingis in the final (where she went on to win her last Grand Slam).

After the Australian Open, Monica struggled a little in 1999. Although winning some big matches throughout the year, Monica's only title came at the Bausch & Lomb Championships in Amelia Island over Roxandra Dragomir 6-2, 6-3 in the Final (only losing 14 games through out the whole tournament). She was also a part of the winning Fed Cup team this year, playing for her country the United States in the 1st round vs Croatia. She defeated Croatian player Talaja 6-3, 6-1, and Majoli 6-0, 6-3 to defeat Croatia and to help the United States progress in the draw.

At the 1999 French Open, Monica fought all the way to the semifinals with impressive ground strokes and her famous never quit attitude. Monica's opponent on the other side of the net was once again, Steffi Graf. This time after Monica won the 1st set 7-6, Graf came back to win 6-7, 6-3, 6-4. She then had to withdraw from three summer events with tendonitis in her left forearm and returned at the Canadian Open and got to the final again, but lost to world No.1 Martina Hingis (halting Monica's winning streak in Toronto where she had won the title 1995-1998). Unfortunately, at a tournament in Tokyo at the end of September, she started to feel pain in her right foot. She reached the final though but lost to world No.2 Lindsay Davenport 7-5, 7-6. Now suffering from a stress fracture in her right foot, forced her out of Linz, Philadelphia and the Season-Ending Championships; Ending the season with a 38-13 win/loss record and ranked #6 in the world.

2000: