March 20, 2003
An Interview with Monica Seles
THE MODERATOR: First question, please.
Q. Can you talk about you have Michael Chang who’s going on his farewell tour this year. Of course he’s playing tonight. Do you look at that and sort of the reception he’s getting everywhere and think, “That’s the way I want to go out,” or do you want to sort of just disappear at the end?
MONICA SELES: I really haven’t given much thought to it. So I might announce it, I might have a farewell tour, and I might not. I really have no idea.
So it’s just great to see Michael made that decision, and he knows. And it’s probably great for the fans to get a chance to see him one last time in a competitive environment.
Q. Do you remember when he won the French?
MONICA SELES: Of course, yeah. That was my first French. So he and Aranxta, of course. He’s just a wonderful guy, got to know him over the years, so…
Q. Were you watching that as a fan?
MONICA SELES: I watched when he played Lendl, if my memory doesn’t fail me. I don’t remember who he beat in the finals, but I remember a little bit. I think he was only 17, so for guys, that’s amazing.
Q. At 18 you stated publicly that…
MONICA SELES: Oh, great (laughing).
Q. “By the time I’m 25, I’ll be finished with tennis. I’ll become an actress.”
MONICA SELES: Yeah, I think Serena is doing that now, so…
Q. Like Julia Roberts or Michelle Pfeiffer. Would you want to comment on that? You’re 29 now.
MONICA SELES: Well, I probably didn’t say it exactly like that but, anyway, I’ll take it from the British press – as always.
But, yeah, that stage I definitely wanted to do other things. You know, life took a different turn I guess.
Q. When you come to a tournament like this, what are your expectations out of yourself?
MONICA SELES: Well, my first expectation really this week is just to be able to play and really be pain-free because I’ve been struggling in the past two weeks with my foot.
And then after that, I have a difficult draw, so I just really look forward to the first round tomorrow and Saturday, and just make sure that I can stay healthy.
Q. With the Williams sisters at 1 and 2 right now, who do not like to play against each other, it’s very different from when you and Graf were very competitive, when Evert and Navratilova were competitive. Can you talk about what it’s like having two sisters at 1 and 2 who don’t like to play each other and what effect that has on the WTA?
MONICA SELES: Well, I don’t think — I mean, I can’t relate to Serena and Venus because I never had a sister, so I don’t know.
But it’s just an amazing relationship that, from the outside, they seem to have, which is difficult enough if they wouldn’t be competing each other, yet alone competing for a No. 1 and 2 spot. The year Serena had is, I mean, is pretty incredible.
So I don’t know what else I could say there.
Q. Do you think it makes it a little less interesting to the public or more interesting?
MONICA SELES: Oh, I don’t think so. The sport is open. They’re the two best players right now. Anyone else that wants to be there, they have to beat them. It’s a fair game. I mean, they’re there on their own merits.
Q. Were you surprised about Martina Hingis? Although she didn’t really announce her retirement, one gets the impression she’s going to stay away from tennis.
MONICA SELES: Yeah, I don’t know. I’m a friend of Martina, so I don’t really like to speak about my friends. I think the most important thing for her is to do whatever makes her happy. If that’s not playing tennis, great. And if she changes her mind down the road and she wants to put in the work, then that’s great, too.
Q. What was it you did say, if you didn’t say that?
MONICA SELES: Oh, I just think in ’91 there have been so many articles in the British press, and ’92, taken out of context that it’s just absolutely scary.
So I don’t know specifically on that day going back, but there definitely have been a lot of exaggerations.
Q. Obviously, you said it took a different turn, you stayed in tennis longer than you thought. Now that you still have some time left, when you look back, is there anything you would have done differently, or did it work out better for you?
MONICA SELES: In what sense, my control?
Q. In a tennis sense, the way your career went, is there anything you would do differently, anything you would change?
MONICA SELES: No, I really don’t dwell in the past. Would I change, yeah, I wish I didn’t get stabbed and played and competed at the highest level for those few years.
But besides that, no, I was very happy that I came back.
Q. Since Jana Novotna retired, is there a player on the women’s tour right now whose quality of volleying approaches Jana Novotna or Martina Navratilova? If not, why not?
MONICA SELES: In my opinion, no. As a player, it’s sad to see because everybody is being groomed as a back court player.
I don’t know why. I think there’s maybe so much emphasis on doing well in the early stages of your career from like 15 to 18. And maybe physically, you’re not as developed, although I think the girls now physically are a lot stronger than even Jana was, and taller.
I don’t know why. It’s definitely become a back court game all the way.
Q. There seems to be this growing sentiment amongst at least for sure the ATP, maybe the WTA, that the Grand Slams are not giving back enough money to the professional game, while they’re giving money to grow the game in general around the world, but not to the actual tours and the players. What’s your feeling?
MONICA SELES: Really, this is the first I’ve heard of it so I’ve been out of it a little bit the last three, four weeks. I really don’t know, I have to look at a percentage. As I said, I’ve stayed out of the WTA and all that stuff, so I shouldn’t comment because I don’t know the facts.
Q. With the outbreak of the Gulf War, will that impact any decisions you might make regarding travel plans or tennis commitments?
MONICA SELES: Well, right now I’m scheduled to play after this tournament Charleston and Amelia. If my health allows me, I plan to do so.
Q. How did you find out about the war? Did you wake up this morning and see?
MONICA SELES: No, I watched it on TV last night. I watched President Bush addressing the nation.
Q. Can you talk about that, having grown up in a country…
MONICA SELES: Oh, I shouldn’t go there. I’m here this week to play tennis and not be a politician or…
Q. Do you have security concerns, or do you feel pretty much this is safe and they’ve taken the right steps and that you just have to go around and go about your business?
MONICA SELES: Because of the Gulf War?
MONICA SELES: Yeah, definitely I think, you know, each one has to decide for themselves what they feel comfortable. And I’ve decided what I need, and for my own reason I’ve tried to stay that private.
Q. You said that you’re going to go to Charleston then to Amelia where there’s the green clay. Can you talk about the differences in strategy and shot selection and playing on green clay versus red clay?
MONICA SELES: Well, green clay, in my opinion, is a lot faster than red clay and it’s a lot slipperyer. That really would be it.
Q. Are there some shots that work better on the green clay surface versus the red surface?
MONICA SELES: Definitely. I think on green clay the points are not as long as the red clay. The other thing is the weather factor in Europe. During the French or most tournaments, it’s still pretty cold and there’s a lot of rain so the courts get a lot slower; as in Charleston and Amelia with the sun, the courts are pretty dry and fast.
Q. Do you feel the crowd support growing for you as you get older, play longer?
MONICA SELES: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I felt that since ’95 when I came back, you know, and that never did go away. It’s just a really great feeling to go out there and know that, you know, there are people who enjoy watching me play.
Q. One of the highlights, I feel, for me watching you play was when you came back into tennis playing in Toronto.
MONICA SELES: Yes.
Q. Such a wonderful comeback. Now, whatever your plans are, if this is your final year or next year, would you like to end it in Toronto because all the fans really loved you there?
MONICA SELES: I would love to, but, I mean, it’s just so hard to say, “Okay, this is the tournament you’re going to end it on,” because really, as an athlete, you never know. So many things can come into effect. If it would be picture-perfect, yeah, that would be great.
But I’m very happy I’m going back this year to Toronto after not going back there for two years, and I’ll just go a day at a time.
Q. Are you the type of player like Michael Chang or Stefan Edberg who put together a farewell tour, “This is my last year,” or is it just going to happen when it hits you, do you think?
MONICA SELES: I have no idea. I think everybody else is different. You know, I don’t know — I never talked to Michael and I don’t know Edberg, so I can’t relate.
So you see someone like Martina Navratilova’s done differently. Hingis is maybe doing it differently. Sanchez did it differently. I don’t know, each one is different. Steffi did it differently. Who knows.
I think however you’re feeling and whatever makes you happy. If I know that, “Okay, in six months I’m going to stop,” and I feel comfortable announcing that, great. If I’m not sure, then why make a point of that and say, “One more year, one more year, one more year,” or I’ve decided to come back after a year.
Q. You’ve been such a private person over the years. Do you think when your playing days are over that some day you will write an autobiography?
MONICA SELES: Okay, I’ll never say never, but I really don’t think so. But, you know, I’ve done kind of a mini one. But it wasn’t an autobiography. It was more about the stabbing, I think, and how I came back in ’95.
But about my life, I probably wouldn’t, no. Because I think to do an autobiography you have to involve a lot of other people, and I would not do that to anyone.
Q. Now, eleven years have gone by since you were singled out at Wimbledon about your grunting and followed by a gruntometer, causing you to lose the one Grand Slam that’s not on your CV when you were the odds-on favorite that year. Looking back, do you think that was necessary, A; and, B, do you still feel Wimbledon is within your grasp?
MONICA SELES: Was it necessary on my end or their end to do that to me (smiling)?
Q. How did you feel?
MONICA SELES: Oh, I just felt very confused by the whole situation. I think when I played Martina in the semis and there was this whole controversy, and I think Tauziat at the match before.
I think at 18 or 19, I let it get to me and I decided not to grunt, definitely wasn’t the right approach maybe in the finals at Wimbledon.
But if I get an opportunity again, I would probably do it differently.
But to have a chance at Wimbledon, I think right now it’s the least chance I would give myself from all the Grand Slams there.
Q. How would you do it differently?
MONICA SELES: I would have just probably kept grunting (laughing).
Q. Do you have any superstitions or lucky charms, anything like that?
MONICA SELES: Not anymore. I mean, I still collect like little teddy bears that different people give me or kids, that I put on my racquet bag. But I used to probably in the beginning of my career kind of not to step on a line. But I’ve gotten over that about two years into the tour.
Q. Can you talk about clay courters in the U.S. Do you think there’s not enough attention paid to playing on clay with Americans growing up?
MONICA SELES: Yeah, you grow up on hard courts here much more. In Europe you grow up on clay courts. It’s just totally different. You go in Spain, all you see is clay courts. In The States all you see is hard courts. Hopefully that will change.
Q. Do you think there’s not enough attention paid to clay courts?
MONICA SELES: Definitely. I mean, hard courts, most of them you can go any public courts. Clay courts, there are public courts but you’ve got to pay. In the beginning, not many people can do that. In Europe, it’s just vice versa.
Q. Before you moved to The States, were you playing entirely on clay?
MONICA SELES: Yeah, yeah.
Q. Do you think that’s something that might change in the United States in your opinion?
MONICA SELES: I think so. I mean, I still believe The States is the only country where you can get a tennis court any time, day or night, without paying. I mean, that doesn’t exist in too many other countries.
So I think if you want to be a tennis player, this is still definitely the best country to come to. I think it would be important to have more balance, especially in California, of more clay courts to give the kids an opportunity to explore both surfaces.
Q. What do you think would cause that to change? Would it be the aging of the recreational player who wants a softer surface, or just more demand from the elite players?
MONICA SELES: Oh, I have no idea. Take a gallop poll, I have no idea, really (smiling).
Q. Do you feel the WTA has now put sufficient security both on and off the court for the players in the last ten years, or has that decreased?
MONICA SELES: I don’t feel it’s sufficient.
Q. What seems to be insufficient?
MONICA SELES: In a lot of ways – our accessibility to people I think to get to us on site, in matches, after matches. And just not me I think, any of the higher-profile players.
Q. Do you mean like even today, walking from the practice courts ?
MONICA SELES: Oh, you’re totally accessible. There’s no other sport that you’re as accessible as in tennis.
Q. Some players, though, I’ve seen Pete Sampras on an off day, he’s not practicing, I’ve seen him walk through a crowd. That’s his choice.
MONICA SELES: That’s why I say it depends. It just depends, you compare to Agassi. It just depends. You can’t compare the two. It just depends, I think, on the personality, on what day you hit it, too, and in your own way how you deal with people, too.
I mean, I can go — everybody recognizes — not everybody, a majority of people can recognize me. I can just go in a crowd, and no one’s going to recognize me here.
Q. What news can you give us on (inaudible)?
MONICA SELES: I just stay private, so I just… Thank you.