Monica Seles, former No. 1 in the world and winner of nine Grand Slam titles, has become the first to officially enter the 27th annual Family Circle Cup. The tournament will be played March 27 – April 4, 1999 at the Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
Seles has yet to add the Family Circle Cup to her list of 43 career singles titles, but her previous performances over the past two years have already placed her in the tournament’s record books. Her 1997 debut was a memorable one in many ways. She advanced to the final with straight set wins over Anke Huber and Conchita Martinez to meet the newly crowned No. 1 player in the world Martina Hingis. By reaching the final, she became one of only nine players in the tournament’s 26-year history to reach the final in her first appearance. That final, televised on a national network to millions of fans, was one of the most exciting matches played on the WTA TOUR in 1998. To the delight of over 8,000 people attending the final, Seles pushed Hingis to a third set. To add even more excitement to the match, she forced the third set to a tiebreak, the first time a Family Circle Cup Championship had been decided in that manner. That fateful match with Hingis, who captured her first Cup title, went 31 games, breaking an existing record of most games (27) in a singles final recorded in 1988.
The following year Seles came so close to repeating that performance but lost in the semifinals to Irina Spirlea in three sets. However, true to form, she did manage to set another Family Circle Cup record on the way to the semifinals. She is the first player in the 26-year history of the event to play three consecutive matches with at least one tiebreak in each match.
A definite crowd favorite, Seles has enjoyed playing in Hilton Head over the past two years. “The fans stayed in my memory after last year (1997). I just wanted to come back,” stated Seles during a post-match press conference at this year’s event. “I love this place. I just wish I had come here earlier in my career. The people here have been so supportive.”
The 1998 season proved to the tennis world that Seles was on track in gaining back her top form. She won two WTA TOUR events and reached the finals of two more including Roland Garros. It was her first Grand Slam final since the 1996 U.S. Open. She also reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, which was her best showing at that prestigious event in six years. By the end of the year, she had reached a number of career milestones, winning over 400 career matches and earning over $10 million in career prize money.
“I can’t think of a better way to start off our player announcements than to welcome Monica back to the Family Circle Cup,” said Lisa Thomas, Family Circle Cup Tournament Director. “She is a crowd favorite here at Sea Pines, and we always know that we can expect the best from her.”