NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — Monica Seles is comfortable talking about her on-court stabbing 16 years ago — even on a day of celebration.
The 35-year-old Seles was enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Newport’s grass courts Saturday. She was the world’s No. 1 women’s player for 178 weeks overall and a winner of nine Grand Slam singles titles.
“I talk about it openly,” she said during a news conference before being inducted. “As you can see, there’s an exhibit here (about me) at the museum. When we were talking about me going into the Hall of Fame it was, ‘Should we include the stabbing or not?’ Unfortunately it’s part of my career. I wish it wasn’t. It’s a long, long time ago.”
It was April 30, 1993. Seles was on top of tennis, the No. 1 player, three-time defending champion of the French Open and back-to-back winner at both the U.S. and Australian Opens.
The attack shocked the sports world. Seated during a changeover at a match in Hamburg, Germany, Seles was stabbed between the shoulder blades by a crazed fan. It would be 2 1/2 years before she returned to the sport.
“Coming back in Toronto after my stabbing, I viewed my career in two phases — before stabbing and after stabbing,” she said. “The reception that I got just reinforced my decision to return.”
Seles went on to win that tournament — the Canadian Open — one of 53 in her career, including the 1996 Australian Open.
“She won eight grand slams before she was stabbed,” said Donald Dell, also inducted Saturday. “Believe me, she would have won another nine.”
Seles was enshrined in nearly a 90-minute ceremony along with master’s player Andres Gimeno, the oldest player ever to win the French at 34 years, 10 months. Dr. Robert Johnson was inducted posthumously.
“I would like to thank all my tennis fans who were there from Day One when I was No. 1, through my stabbing, and my comeback,” Seles, dressed in white slacks with a lavender blouse, told the crowd.
Johnson, introduced by Jeanne Ashe, wife of the late Hall of Famer Arthur Ashe, helped desegregate the sport. Dell, a U.S. Davis Cup member, later helped promote and market the sport.
Seles, playfully, gave one more grunt. “For old, good time sakes,” she said.
Gimeno brought the biggest laughter from the crowd when he recalled his only major title at Roland Garros. He was introduced by 1987 Hall of Famer Stan Smith.
“I was going to leave the game without winning a big one,” he said. “I think God said, ‘Let the poor guy win one.'”