Seles lends fame to Landfall charity tennis event

In its third year back after a nine-year hiatus, the Legends of Landfall tennis event was bigger and better than ever.

For the first time, three organizations (The Miracle League of Wilmington, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Eastern North Carolina and the UNC-Wilmington Seahawk Club) will receive proceeds from the event, which has raised more than $60,000 the past two years combined.

The headliner of the event, Monica Seles, was in action Saturday afternoon in a mixed doubles match. Seles teamed with Luke Jensen, who won the French Open doubles title in 1993. They took on Jimmy Arias, who won five ATP tournament titles and reached No. 5 in the world, and six-time Grand Slam doubles champion Rennae Stubbs.

“Being able to lend my face and just what I’ve done in the past to raise money for something is incredible,” Stubbs said. “There’s not many people who can say, ‘Well, I can just lend my name and my face to something and it means something.’ “

Seles had as good a three-year stretch from 1990-1992 as any women’s player in the history of the game. As a 16-year-old in 1990, she won 10 tournaments, including a 7-6 (6), 6-4 victory over Steffi Graf in the French Open championship.

“After I won the French Open … it went to a different level,” Seles said about her stardom. “If you cut your hair or you say something stupid, it becomes front-page news, where before nobody cares about you, so that took a while to adjust to.”

In 1991, Seles won three of the four majors and the year-end Virginia Slims Championships to cement her place atop the world rankings.

Her greatest season was 1992. She is one of only seven women to reach all four Grand Slam finals. She won the Australian Open for the second consecutive year, the French Open for a third straight time and a second U.S. Open in a row.

“As an athlete you kind of know when you are playing some good tennis, and when you are like it’s going to be a rough, rough year,” Seles said. “I knew that year would be a good one for sure.”

Her domination continued in 1993 when she claimed another Australian Open title. Spanning from the French Open in 1990 to the Australian Open in 1993, Seles won eight of 12 Grand Slam titles.

She was in her prime and surely on her way to more titles when she was horrifically stabbed by a fan during a quarterfinal match in Hamburg, Germany, three months after her Australian Open title. Seles had yet to lose a match during the 1993 season.

After the attack, Seles was never the same. She won the 1996 Australian Open, her last of nine Grand Slam titles.

She officially retired in February 2008, and less than a year later she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In 2012, Tennis Channel named Seles as the 19th greatest player of all time, regardless of gender. Last Sunday, Seles received her latest recognition as she was inducted into the Court of Champions at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.