Seles Speaks

She revolutionized women’s tennis by playing a bold baseline game and producing power and short angles seldom seen in the sport. Monica Seles possessed perhaps the most lethal return of serve in the history of women’s tennis, and a stirring shriek that accompanied her stunning shots. In many ways, Seles was ahead of her time, but when she surveys the tennis landscape today, Seles said the women’s game needs more rivalry and intensity.

“(Justine) Henin has on average dominated the (WTA) tour, but if you look at the championships in Madrid, you see Henin beat (Marion) Bartoli 6-0, 6-0,” Seles told Steve Hartman, Mychal Thompson and Vic “The Brick” Jacobs in a radio interview she conducted on Friday on “The Loose Cannons Show” on AM 570 KLAC. “Those scores shouldn’t happen in the championships. You want to see the top players play each other. That’s the only way the fans will tune in.”

The former World No. 1 conducted the interview to promote her appearance in the inaugural Bank of the West Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic, Dec. 8, at The Riviera Tennis Club. Grand Slam champions Seles, Jennifer Capriati and Luke and Murphy Jensen, actor David Duchovny and musician Gavin Rossdale are among the tennis and entertainment stars scheduled to join the host Jensens for the event.

Seles touched on several tennis topics in the interview including:

  • On being stabbed at a match April 30, 1993 in Hamburg, Germany: “I was only 19 when I got stabbed. It would never have happened in any other sport. I said to myself, `Why me,’ but I was proud of myself that I was able to move on and to get back to the sport that I loved and adore. That to me was the final triumph after a few bad years.”
  • On the lack of punishment to her attacker: “I really felt that I could not justify in my own brain someone stabs you in front of 7,000 people, admits that he planned it, and never spends a night in jail. I don’t feel safe playing there (in Germany) again after what happened to me.”
  • On returning to tennis after her stabbing: “I was lucky. My mom and dad had really strong personalities and supported me. At the end of the day, the love I had for the game I started at 7 years old motivated me to come back. I never imagined I would make a great living and travel throughout the world. I started playing tennis because I loved it. I tell kids, `don’t look at the fame and the money. Play tennis because you love it.’ I missed it.”
  • On not hearing from other players after her stabbing: “The women’s tour is very competitive. There’s a lot of money at stake. It is what it is. It was very unfortunate. It changed my career and it changed Stefi’s (Graf). That’s life. It is a business.”
  • On playing in the 1998 French Open after her dad, Karoly, died: “My dad passed away a couple days before the French (Open). I thought, What would my dad want me to do?' He battled cancer. I thought,follow your heart,’ and my heart told me to go out and play for my dad. He was a cartoonist. He always saw the lighter side of everything. Part of me said stay home, but I knew that was not what my dad would have wanted.”
  • On her dad’s coaching philosophy: “He saw the bigger picture of sports, instead of just win or lose. He was human. Sports is a business and cutthroat and people will do anything to win, but I was lucky I had my dad as my coach and he never put pressure on me. Win or lose, the love he gave me was the same. Sadly I see too many cases are the other way now.”
  • On the state of women’s tennis: “(Justine) Henin has on average dominated the (WTA) tour, but if you look at the championships in Madrid, you see Henin beat (Marion) Bartoli 6-0, 6-0. Those scores shouldn’t happen in the championships. You want to see the top players play each other. That’s the only way the fans will tune in.”
  • On tennis players having shorter careers due to other distractions: “It’s harder now. You have to be a multi-media athlete. You have to look good, speak well and do all the off the court stuff. In the old days, we did much less. Tennis is a brutal sport. We play 10 and a half months a year. It’s hard to stay injury-free. A lot of the top players struggle with that. Roger (Federer) has a different game. It doesn’t take as much out of him as Serena (Williams). Roger has played every Grand Slam since 1999. That statistic alone is amazing.”
  • On becoming a U.S. citizen in 1994: “It was the happiest day of my life. Playing in the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 and representing our country was the biggest honor I’ve ever had. It surpasses all the tournaments I played in.”

Expected to join Seles, Capriati, Duchovny, Rossdale and the Jensens are former UCLA star Justin Gimelstob, former WTA Tour player Carling Bassett-Seguso and Robert Seguso, actors Scott Foley, Donna Mills and Eric Braeden, as well as other stars from sports, television, music and film. The fun-filled day of tennis and an “Evening with the Stars” gala will raise money for a number of Jensen designated youth-oriented charities, including Jensen-Schmidt Tennis Academy for Down Syndrome, the National Down Syndrome Society and The Riviera Foundation.

The Bank of the West Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic gets underway with a tennis pro-am from 9-11:30 a.m. on Dec. 8, followed by a kids’ clinic from noon-1:30 p.m. A pro-celebrity tennis exhibition will be played from 1:30-4:30 p.m. The activities climax with the “Evening with the Stars” gala from 7-11 p.m. at The Riviera Country Club. The gala will feature top entertainment and a live auction.

“I’m honored to be asked to co-host the Bank of the West Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic,” said Luke Jensen. “It’s going to be a special day and night that will benefit three great causes and we are especially excited to have Monica join us for the event.”

The Jensen Brothers designated youth organizations, including the Jensen-Schmidt Tennis Academy for Down Syndrome, will help meet the sport specific needs of children and young adults with Down Syndrome and other special needs. In addition to meeting sport specific needs, the other designated organizations will use multiple avenues in assisting special needs and disadvantaged children.

For more information on the Bank of the West Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic, please phone C & H Events at (888) 85-YOUTH. For tickets to the exhibition, please phone 877-888-6433.