Seles leads 2009 class for Tennis Hall of Fame

Monica Seles was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Thursday, honored for a career in which she won nine Grand Slam singles titles and returned to the tour after being stabbed while playing a match.

“It was just a lot of highs and a lot of lows,” Seles said during a conference call. “One of the things that always kept me going was my love of the game.”

Also elected were 1972 French Open champion Andres Gimeno, Association for Tennis Professionals co-founder Donald Dell, and the late Robert Johnson, who pioneered the integration of tennis. The induction is July 11.

Known for her two-tone grunts and two-handed swings off both wings, Seles won 53 singles titles, including four at the Australian Open, three at the French Open and two at the U.S. Open.

When she first rose to No. 1 in 1991, she was 17, at the time the youngest woman to have topped the rankings. By the time she was 19, Seles already had won eight major championships.

But in April 1993, at the height of her success, she was attacked by a man who climbed out of the stands at a tournament in Hamburg, Germany.

Seles returned to the game 27 months later and immediately reached the 1995 U.S. Open final. Her final Grand Slam title then came at the 1996 Australian Open; she would go on to reach two more major finals.

Seles said she does not dwell on how her career might have fared had the stabbing not happened.

“I try not to ask myself those questions because there are really no answers to it,” she said.

Hampered by an injured left foot, she played her last match at the 2003 French Open at age 29. Thinking she might try to come back at some point, Seles waited until last year to officially announce her retirement.

Born in what was then Yugoslavia, Seles moved to the United States when she was 13 to work at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. She became a U.S. citizen in 1994 and helped the United States win three Fed Cup titles.

Seles also won an Olympic bronze medal in 2000, and at the age of 16 became the youngest French Open champion in history. She called her first major victory the greatest of her career.

“As a 16-year-old, everybody says, ‘Oh, you’re going to be great, blah, blah, blah,”‘ she said. “Until you actually do it, you don’t believe it.”