Fault called on Seles

As the new order of women’s tennis, Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters, prepare to do battle at the Hopman Cup in Perth tonight, former world No. 1 Monica Seles has been left without a lead-in event to the Australian Open.

Seles, the 29-year-old Yugoslav-born American who was put out of tennis in 1993 when stabbed at a Hamburg tournament, yesterday failed to meet yesterday’s 4pm deadline to confirm her request for the final wildcard to the adidas International in Sydney from Sunday.
She thought she had until tomorrow but Women’s Tennis Association officials refused to extend the deadline. Instead, the wildcard went to the talented Thai Tamarine Tanasugarn, ranked No. 28 in the world.

Seles, ranked No. 7, is currently at an exhibition event in Hong Kong.

She will go into the Australian Open in Melbourne from January 13 hoping to win a fifth title but without the chance of further match play under Australian conditions.

World No. 1 Serena Williams, defending adidas champion Jennifer Capriati and No. 4 Clijsters will have honed their games under Australian conditions this summer.

Williams will team with James Blake as the US take on the Clijsters-Xavier Malisse combination from Belgium in tonight’s final round of the Hopman Cup.

Williams will sit out the Sydney tournament as will elder sister, No. 2-ranked Venus, preferring to use next week for practice.

Former world No. 1 Capriati, who is striving for three straight Australian Open titles, Clijsters, No. 5 Justin Henin, No. 8 Daniela Hantuchova and another former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport head the cast for the all-star women’s line-up at the Sydney International Tennis Centre.

Seles is giving herself another two years to realise her dream of winning a 10th grand slam title before she retires. “I know I am at the end of the stage of my career. I will probably play to when I am max 31,” she said.

Although Seles and the rest of the WTA Tour were left trailing by the Williams sisters last season, she has not given up hope of winning another slam. “That’s what drives me,” she said.

Seles said her immediate focus was on the Australian Open, where she won a hat-trick of titles between 1991 and 1993, and another in 1996.

“I love the Australian Open. “The field is extremely tough and I will take it a match at a time,” added Seles, beaten in the semi-finals last year.