1999 French Open – 1st Round Interview

Paris, France

May 25, 1999

Monica Seles defeats Li 6-2,6-4

Q. How do you feel on the court after such a long time?

MONICA SELES: I really was anxious to go out and play the match because it’s my first match on red clay. I was a little bit nervous coming into the French not playing anything. So I’m pretty pleased with the way I played. I knew today would be a little bit tougher match. The last time I played her we played a tough three-setter. I knew I had to come out concentrating, and at key times I was, so I’m pretty happy.

Q. Do you feel that your form has to improve yet? If so, what do you have to improve?

MONICA SELES: The ideal would be really to play good the first week and get some matches, and keep practicing and really try to peak for the second week. That would be my ideal world. So I think today I was pretty happy with the way I moved, but not so much with my serve. I gave away a lot of first serves. I just need to get used to it a little bit more. I think playing singles and getting a few, hopefully, doubles matches under my belt will only help.

Q. Monica, where are you physically right now?

MONICA SELES: I feel physically fine. I mean, I worked really hard the weeks that I could in Florida, both tennis and physically. Obviously, you know, I couldn’t play matches. I had to take antibiotics, now for the fourth week. I’m for sure it takes its toll on the body. But I think I have two more days. By that time, I should feel really a hundred percent.

Q. What are your expectations for this tournament or do you have no expectations?

MONICA SELES: I mean, every time you enter a tournament, you want to win it. I think really, I mean, I hope every player enters it looking at it that way. So I’m no different in that.
From my point of view, I just worry about the next match really. It’s a long, two-week event. I haven’t had too many matches under my belt, so I just want to focus on my next opponent.

Q. Looking back on last year here when you played, would you say that your memory of that is largely a positive memory or largely a negative memory to have come up short?

MONICA SELES: Thank goodness my memory is not long. I really don’t — I mean, my good matches, my bad matches. I really haven’t thought about that match since the day that I lost it. That day was very difficult. I tried to learn from it and not repeat the same mistakes when I play Arantxa. But from the next day on, I really haven’t thought about it too much.

Q. Could you just go over the people you’re working with now, who is here with you?

MONICA SELES: Well, Zoltan is here. He’s been with me for a long time. Then I have Walker, who has been helping me the last month or so . And then I have Marcus who also has been helping me the last month or so.

Q. Walker?

MONICA SELES: S-a-h-a-g.

Q. Obviously, you’re in the throes of playing right now. Do you ever take a pause at all that you’ve already accomplished, and what do you think about that? Is that going to have to wait?

MONICA SELES: I mean, I know for me really that does not matter absolutely. I love to play tennis. I’ve been really fortunate to get some great results. But really I think the day-to-day thing is that I just love to play. It has given me tremendous opportunities in a lot of areas. For me, really, it’s just that simple. And I try not to think, I mean, back really, so.

Q. I’m not asking for you to give away secrets, but you say you learned something from last year’s final.

MONICA SELES: Just how not to go into a match mentally that way and not to make the same mistakes on the way. I played Arantxa since then a couple times and I hope I improved upon that mistake. It might happen again. I can’t say that (laughter). But at least I want to be aware and try not to let that happen. But sometimes your mind wants — says to do something else but your body doesn’t want to do that. So those are things that I’ve learned and I’ve been able to do differently when I played her, but, obviously, I haven’t played her again at the French yet.

Q. How did your problem with your ear come about? Was it kind of another illness you had and that was a side effect?

MONICA SELES: I really have sinuses and bronchitis. That’s what I actually had. So the ear was just automatically with it, but it was more the other two that were really the heavy problem. It was very strange because in Florida, it was 95 degrees. But the doctor said just going from the gym to tennis, back to the gym, tennis, I just caught the bug. But it really hit me hard because the first course of antibiotics didn’t work at all, so .

Q. Can you remember the last time you were really happy with your – when you were playing a Grand Slam?

MONICA SELES: Never (laughter). I mean, if you ask Steffi and me, that would probably be the answer, or I’m sure Martina Navratilova, too.

Q. How about close to satisfying?

MONICA SELES: I think probably when I felt I started playing the two best Grand Slams was ’92 French Open and ’93 Australian Open. I mean, I would have to say ’93 Australian Open. I kind of was very happy with my game, with everything else surrounding it. I was just at a very good place at that time.

Q. But since your comeback, you haven’t been particularly pleased, even at the ’95 Australian?

MONICA SELES: Not really. I mean, I feel I had a couple chances to do well at the Grand Slams, especially the US Open, ’95 and ’96, but mentally I couldn’t overcome a couple things, and I probably wasn’t ready physically, so those would have to be more the losses I regret. I probably played a couple great matches, but I would not say a whole Grand Slam tournament, no.

Q. Speaking of Steffi, is she the player who is like still out there now that maybe you would kind of align yourself with in terms of accomplishments that’s on the Tour, things like that, similar injuries?

MONICA SELES: Well, I mean, it’s hard to say. Obviously, Steffi has had a lot of injuries. So I had also a lot of injuries because I think both of us push our bodies so much to the limit and both of us practice a lot. But I just, from what I see from Steffi, she’s just loves to play tennis and that’s why she’s out here practicing just as hard as she was ten years ago, and I think wanting it just as much as she did ten years ago also.

Q. Steffi was saying earlier on, looking at the power generation, Mauresmo, people like that, how do you feel about the new generation of power players? Also, you’re one of the veterans now. When you won your three here, you were a much younger player. Do you treat them differently now? Do you feel conscious of being a veteran?

MONICA SELES: I mean, power, obviously, you can acquire power. It just depends if you want to acquire power or not. There’s different ways to power. That’s a decision (inaudible) what I’m going to do. If you look in athletes, if you look at track and field, power and speed are the most important. They’re very good from 25 to 30. I think once you pass on from 30 till 33, with a few exceptions will be like Steffi, who is one of the best athletes ever, and that’s why I think she will be able to play for a few more years if she wants to at a very high level of tennis. But I think just tennis in general is for sure changing. I mean, it changed from Navratilova who really brought the strength into tennis, then Steffi brought it to another level, then I started hitting the ball hard, then all the youngsters grew up watching us so they knew they had to hit the ball harder to be a top player and I think the youngsters who are watching us now, the entire Tour, are going to even hit it harder and be even physically stronger. That’s why I think women’s tennis is going forward to.

Q. You’re going for your fifth Canadian Open title as well. Do you consider you played your best tennis up there and why?

MONICA SELES: I played some great tennis there, but I’ve been pretty lucky with the draw, too, I’d have to say. I think it’s a combination of both. I just feel really comfortable there. I don’t know. I mean, Australia also I played some great tennis. So I don’t know myself really. I wish I knew the formula to it; I would use it at other tournaments, too.

Q. I’m going to completely switch subjects. It must be difficult for someone who became a US citizen I think three or four years ago to be sitting at home watching the news and seeing your former country being bombed every day. Are you able to concentrate and what is your situation?

MONICA SELES: It’s been very difficult obviously. It’s in my hometown where I was born, everything. It’s a very difficult time the last three months now. But, you know, the only thing I can do is keep playing tennis and, you know, worry the other stuff when I step off the court.

Q. Do you find yourself staying up at night watching the news a lot?

MONICA SELES: Oh, I do watch the news tons. I mean, I do have CNN on a lot and try to read. Different stories from different sources, different sides and everything, as everybody else.

Q. Do you still have a lot of family back there?

MONICA SELES: I have no one back there, no one.

Q. Over the years, you’ve been in a situation where you’ve been asked to comment on politics a lot. You always declined to do that. Do you feel any desire to engage yourself at all on the issue now?


Q. If so, why not?

MONICA SELES: I mean, I just — I don’t think I have the knowledge on that. I think you have to leave that to politicians because it’s a very complicated issue, what’s going on right now. It’s not — really, it’s not easy to comment on it. But as I think everybody else, you just want peace. You just don’t want people dying on either side.

Q. Not to comment, but as complicated as it is, you’re more of an insider, do you even understand it at all?

MONICA SELES: Oh, yeah. I mean, I do understand it obviously. But it’s a complicated issue. I understand as much as I can, as much as my level of knowledge is. I’m not a very high level, so, but as much as I can I do obviously.

Q. You said you don’t have any family back there. Any friends, acquaintances you’ve been in touch with?

MONICA SELES: Really, the only friend from school that I’ve kept in touch, she lives for the past eight years in Budapest, that’s been it. Everybody else I’ve lost touch. We moved to Germany back in ’84, then moved to the States in ’86. I really lost touch with most of my friends except one. But, you know, my parents still have their homes there.

Q. When you see video images of your former hometown, I know you were younger, but when you see the damage there, does it bring back strong memories? Do you recognize any of the places?

MONICA SELES: I just think it’s too tough for me to talk about. It’s just too personal. I would not want to share stories like that with the whole world, no.

Q. You mentioned the different people you’re working with here. What exactly are their roles? Where they full-time trainers or what exactly?

MONICA SELES: I really never go full-time with anybody. I think you guys already know that probably. Zoltan and Walker have been helping me with my tennis tremendously. Then Marcus has been helping with me fitness, so I kind of both do their part type of thing.

Q. Have you ever felt overpowered in a tennis match?

MONICA SELES: Probably in a couple matches, yeah. Definitely sometimes against Steffi I’d have to say. Who did I play? Probably against the Williams, against Mary Pierce. There’s a couple that would hit the ball hard coming back. If you’re not in great shape, it’s very difficult to get them back.