Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles will continue their exhibition series when the left-handed Grand Slam champions face off on Friday, Sept. 14 at the New Orleans Arena. Luke Jensen will emcee the event and play mixed doubles. A concert by Theresa Andersson will follow the singles and mixed doubles matches.
Tickets for the exhibition start at $30 and will go on sale on Saturday, June 16. To purchase tickets, please visit Ticketmaster.com. For information on participating in the pro-am with Seles and Navratilova, please call (504) 401-3861 or (985) 634-6229.
Sarasota residents Seles and Navratilova have a shared tennis history and will share the court in a series of exhibitions this year. In 1993, Seles beat Steffi Graf, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, to capture her third consecutive Australian Open championship. It was Seles’ seventh major title in her last eight major appearances. Playing near the peak of her powers, she would go on to beat Navratilova in the Chicago final before Navratilova snapped Seles’ 34-match winning streak with a 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(3), victory in the Paris indoors final.
Seles won 10 of her 17 meetings with Navratilova. They have won 27 major singles titles between them and when Navratilova is asked to identify the greatest woman tennis player in history, she doesn’t have to look very far. “I know I’m one of the top three women athletes of all time. And I’m the greatest tennis player who ever played the game,” Navratilova told The Houston Chronicle. “When you’re up there with an elite group of people, that’s good enough. But I probably was the greatest. I know my best was better than anybody else’s.”
A stress fracture in her foot forced former No. 1 Seles to step away from the WTA Tour four years ago. Though she never officially retired, the nine-time Grand Slam champion has not played a match since limping out of the French Open in a 6-4, 6-0 loss to Nadia Petrova in May of 2003. It was the first time in her storied career that Seles suffered a first-round loss in a Grand Slam.
While she still enjoys hitting, the two-handed titan has said in the past that lingering foot pain prevents her from putting in the practice time necessary to prepare for a return to competitive tennis.
In her younger years, Seles revolutionized women’s tennis by playing a bold baseline game and producing power and short angles seldom seen in women’s tennis. The woman who took the ball so early it looked like she was hitting half volleys from the baseline, possessed perhaps the most lethal return of serve in the history of women’s tennis, and a stirring shriek that accompanied her stunning shots.
“The ball is being hit harder and harder, and the girls are much more complete players than they used to be, physically stronger,” Seles told Tennis Week in a past interview. “I think I probably was one of the earliest to start it. I brought in power with two hands from both sides. I was one of a few players that brought on this power game and they’ve taken it to a new level. Then the grunting part, everybody is now doing it. It’s like normal now. Seeing women play such aggressive tennis is really great.”
The owner of a 595-122 record, Seles claimed 53 career championships, concluded 1991 and 1992 as World No. 1 and inspired a legion of top players, including Venus Williams and Serena Williams. In a past interview with Tennis Week, Hall of Famer Jimmy Connors said Seles’ fighting spirit, willingness to play even closer to the lines on pivotal points and her aggressive baseline style made her the player that most reminded him of himself.
Though the 33-year-old Seles has limited her competitive appearances to World TeamTennis and exhibition matches in recent years, she still plans to pursue her favorite tennis past-time with a passion: hitting. The simple act of hitting the ball over the net over and over again still brings genuine joy to one of the sharpest ball strikers in the sport’s history.
“I had a very unusual career, to say the least,” Seles said. “I had some highs and lows. But at the end of the day, I got to do something I loved to do. As a little girl, how I started playing tennis was very simple. That part, I’m proud to say, has never changed. To me, I get a great joy just hitting the ball.”