During her rise to No. 1 in the tennis world in the early 1990s, Monica Seles beat the best. But her toughest foe off the court was struggling with chronic over eating for years while coming back from being stabbed during a match in Germany in 1993.
Seles, 38, talked about that Tuesday morning in front of a crowd at the Tennis Club of Rochester and also played some doubles in Pittsford. She promoted her 2009 book, “Getting A Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self,” while also helping raise money for Happiness House, a non-profit agency that serves Ontario County children and families.
“Her message is about eating right and self-image and self-confidence and being fit – not so much model-perfect,” said Mike Coppola, one of the event organizers who works for one its sponsors, Paychex.
“We’re all pushing our kids to succeed in sports … I think part of Monica’s message was to keep in mind that drive or desire to excel is sometimes at the expense of the kids’ well-being.”
Seles declined to be interviewed during the appearance, but she has spoken candidly over the years about her binge eating. Now she advises others, especially teens, to stay active and eat healthier, and explains how the mind and body work in concert.
“It’s a great message,” said Scott Thyroff, 41, a former Pittsford Mendon tennis standout who is now a local instructor. “With the computers and iPads and all the other distractions kids have, the outdoor activities have gotten lost a little bit.”
Thyroff partnered with Seles during a doubles exhibition, calling it “unnerving” initially but overall a “thrill” to play with a player who was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009.
Former Honeoye Falls-Lima standout Quinn Gleason, 17, who leaves Thursday to start her college career at Notre Dame, also was among those who played against Seles in the exhibition.
“It was awesome. She’s a great role model and great person to look up to. I know she’s inspired me a lot,” Gleason said. “It’s so important, especially in an individual sport like tennis. You’ve really got to have your head on straight and be focused at all times.”