MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Monica Seles used to throw roses into the crowd when she was gathering Grand Slam titles with apparent ease.
A lot has happened since those seemingly carefree times. Her 1993 stabbing on a tennis court in Germany and the death in 1998 of her father are among the personal traumas she has endured.
But for the 28-year-old, nine-time Grand Slam champ, the love of tennis remains.
She has talked animatedly at the Australian Open this week about enjoying the game, though the four-time Australian champion is more reserved about her prospects for another title in Melbourne. Seles could face Venus Williams, who is seeded No. 2, in the quarterfinals.
All Seles would say Friday when asked about taking the trophy was that she “wouldn’t be surprised if I won it, and if I didn’t”
“I really don’t worry about the outcome of anything. I just do the best that I can in every part of my life.”
Seles insists she has no idea when she will retire from the sport that has brought her worldwide fame, but no majors since the 1996 Australian Open. That is the only one of her Grand Slam crowns won after her stabbing and a two-year absence from the tour.
Questions about retirement “have come up I think the last six years of my career,” said Seles, who is seeded eighth.
“Whenever the morning comes, not one morning but a couple of mornings, that I’m dreading going out there practicing and going to the gym, that’s it,” Seles said after beating Zimbabwe’s Cara Black in the second round.
“This is probably the best time in my career. I’m only playing because I’m enjoying it, and there are no other pressures on me.”
On Friday, the former world No. 1 moved into the fourth round of this year’s first major with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Italian Francesca Schiavone, seeded No. 31.
Seles insists she is still capable of winning one of the sport’s big-four titles, despite not having reached a Grand Slam final since the 1998 French Open, where she lost to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. That came three weeks after the death of her father, Karolj, from cancer.
In 2001, Seles had wins over Jennifer Capriati, Serena Williams, Justine Henin and Martina Hingis. She won four titles, three in a row, and ended the season with a 13-match winning streak. But she was also troubled by a right foot injury.
Seles lifted her play against Schiavone, a gritty baseliner from Milan, ranked No. 36 and playing in only her second Australian Open. The Italian beat Seles in the Hopman Cup in Perth two weeks ago, but on Friday, Seles rebounded after losing her serve in the first game of each set.
“I was making some mistakes there in the first set, but I think in the key points, I played well,” Seles said.