Frustrated Seles sits and watches as foot heals

Monica Seles was thousands of miles away from where the Australian Open was being played, but the Sarasota resident kept close tabs on the year’s first Grand Slam event.

Seles paid particular attention to the way Marat Safin overcame an injury that kept him away from tennis much of last year to make a run to the final against Roger Federer.

“The way he was able to play so many matches was amazing,” Seles said.

She also took note of the disappointment of Amelie Mauresmo, who reached the quarterfinals, only to have to default because of a back injury. “I felt so bad for her,” Seles said. “To get that far, then not be able to play.”

Seles can commiserate with any player dealing with pain and injury.

The former No. 1 player in the world has dealt with her share of pain and injury, and is now trying to rehabilitate from a foot injury that threatens her career.

Seles missed most of last year with the foot injury and has no idea when, or if, she will be back on tour.

“There is no timetable,” Seles said recently. She wishes there was.

Seles admits to be frustrated by the lingering injury. She sometimes sits and holds a racket in her hand but is unable to get out on a court. She can’t run.

“I can’t walk on the sand.”

Seles has been in a cast for the past nine weeks and will be for another three or four weeks. Then there will be another MRI to determine the condition of her left foot and whether the bone that became split has been healing.

Seles has spent most of her time recently in New York, where her rehab has included laser treatments. She really can’t even enjoy things like trying out new restaurants because she has been on a low-carb diet in an attempt to stay in shape. And it is hard to enjoy much of anything else because of the brutal winter weather in New York.

“I had to come home for a while,” Seles said. “It has been so incredibly cold. I missed the Sarasota weather.”

She also misses not being able to play tennis, and holds out hope that her career is not finished. But she also has declined to have surgery on the foot. She has never had surgery and is determined not to start now.

Seles, now 30, finished last year out of the top 10. That was the first time that has happened (except for 1994, when she didn’t compete after being stabbed in 1993) since 1988, her first year on the tour.

If there is a tennis god, Seles’ foot will heal and she will be able to return to the game. One of the best competitors (and genuinely one of the nicest and most sincere players) in the game, Seles deserves to go out fighting instead of quietly.