Women’s tennis legend Monica Seles will use the two exhibition matches against Martina Navratilova in Auckland and Christchurch in February as a build up to her return to the WTA Tour.
Seles has not played competitively since the 2003 French Open as she has battled with a foot injury, but the matches against Navratilova will help her gage how close she is to a return to top competition.
“This is going to be a great test for me,” Seles told the phone conference on Friday. “I’ve been hitting for some time but it’s always different when you play a match. There’s no better way to try it than playing against Martina, as she was the one I played against in my first come back.
“It’s going to gage where my game is. It’s going to tell a lot about how my foot holds up. Then I’ll probably want another months practice and then hopefully be ready in about March or April.”
Seles has won 53 tournament singles titles but is very excited about the prospect of playing the exhibition matches as she has never been to New Zealand and is also bringing her mother along.
“It’s so exciting to come to New Zealand because I’ve never been there and I’ve heard how beautiful it is and checked it out now that I know I’m coming, on the website and just making a list of stuff I want to do and see and definitely want to sea kayak.”
She also mentioned the possibility of a bungy jump, which would be more a test of her nerve than her foot.
The 31-year old has a slight upper hand in the history of matches against Navratilova and she says they are both very competitive players who will take the matches seriously.
“We count them when we play in the back yard,” Seles said as the two are now nearly neighbours in Florida and often hit together. “We’re just competitive, I guess it’s part of your blood.”
The injury break was frustrating for Seles but it has not quelled her hunger to compete at the top level and has given her the opportunity to work on more of her overall fitness.
“The good thing was that it has definitely made me do tons of stuff off court which I probably should have done a lot earlier in my career but I’m definitely probably in one of the best shapes, if not, by shape and my fitness, in a long, long, long time.”
Seles says she will give herself six months back on the tour to try and prove she can still compete with the best but even if she can’t she is happy with what she has achieved in the sport.
“If my time comes and my career is over then that’s fantastic I had a wonderful career, but if I can eek out just a little bit more to at least finish on a happy term instead of playing in pain like I have the last few months that would be great.”
Seles will play Navratilova in two exhibition matches at the ASB Tennis Centre in Auckland on February 1 and Christchurch’s Westpac Centre on February 3.
And for those that are interested she is pretty sure she still grunts but she says she never realises she is doing it.