Seles begins comeback in Delaware

Monica Seles has watched a lot of tennis on television lately. That’s not a good thing when you were once ranked No. 1 in the world.

Seles has been forced to watch for more than a year, exchanging her travel schedule for doctor’s appointments because of a foot injury that she admits may put an end to her career.

The nine-time Grand Slam winner returns to competitive tennis tonight – in Delaware. She will make her debut for the World Team Tennis’ New York Sportimes against the Delaware Smash at the AstraZeneca Tennis Facility.

Since injuring her left foot in May 2003, Seles has flown between Florida and New York to see countless specialists. She says she finally is ready to regain the form that made her the world’s top-ranked player in 1991 and ’92.

“The injury definitely tested my love for the game,” Seles said. “I wanted to try everything I could to come back.”

Sometimes, she admitted, it seemed like a lost cause.

“If I’m not at the level I want to be at, then I won’t be back,” she said. “I will play only at a level I’m used to. Otherwise, forget it.”

In her time off, Seles, 30, became an expert on her injury. More importantly, it has been a year of soul searching.

“When I was in a cast, I had to be realistic [about continuing]. There were lots of ups and downs. I would like to try to play again, but I’m happy with what I’ve done.”

Her foot became painful in Rome at the Telecom Italia Open. She was forced to retire from her early-round match against Nadia Petrova.

She played in the 2003 French Open, but clearly was not herself in losing to Petrova, 6-4, 6-0.

It was Seles’ last major tournament. Specialists in New York eventually told her she had suffered a stress fracture because of overuse.

“I saw every specialist,” Seles said. “Either I’ve got too much calcium or too much stress [on the foot]. I’m always pushing it to the limit.”

Seles stayed out of tennis to rest the fracture.

The injury worsened, and doctors put her in a cast from October to March.

Questions about retirement started to come, but Seles wanted to play.

“Anytime you can’t do what you love it’s frustrating,” Seles said. “Your body is telling you, ‘You can’t do it.’

“If I didn’t have that love for it, I wouldn’t go through this.”

She first wanted to return by this year’s French Open. Now, she says, she could return to the WTA Tour in time to play at the U.S. Open in New York Aug. 30-Sept. 12.

Playing for the Sportimes is a way to ease back into the spotlight.

“The year flew by,” Seles said. “It’s good to come back in a positive environment. My ideal goal is to get back on the tour right away. But this is a great way to get matches.”

Still, Seles knows what might be ahead.

“Right now, I don’t even want to think about retirement,” She said. “But I’m realistic about it. This is still uncharted territory for me.”