Tennis star Seles to play in New Orleans

Her love of tennis is enough temptation for Monica Seles to follow Wimbledon. The emotional aspect, however, limits her TV viewing.

“I’ve only watched bits and pieces. It’s not my favorite thing to do, because part of me still wishes I was there,” said Seles, during a recent interview in advance of a Sept. 14 exhibition match against Martina Navratilova at the New Orleans Arena.

“I did watch the French Open, though,” Seles said.

That’s where Justine Henin matched Seles’ feat as the only women to win three consecutive French Open titles in June. Seles, 33, who lives in Sarasota, did it from 1990-92.

Henin advanced Friday at the rain-soaked Wimbledon. She’s an oddsmaker’s favorite to reach the women’s singles finals.

Seles, who advanced to her only Wimbledon singles final in 1992, losing to Steffi Graf, expects a few upsets this week.

“I think you have a few wild cards,” said Seles, a nine-time winner in Grand Slam tournaments. “It’s been raining, so the grass is going to be playing lower, it’s going to be a faster, so it’s always going to favor the more agressive player.

“Of course, you have to look at Justine, obviously the defending champion (Amelie) Mauresmo, Serena (Williams) is playing really well right now and I think the more matches she gets, the better she’ll be.

“I still think it’s wide open on the women’s side.”

Seles is attempting one final comeback in her career. Part of her return includes playing charity exhibition matches like the one in New Orleans. The event is part of the Men’s USTA $50,000 Tournament scheduled for that week. The Seles vs. Navratilova match will be followed by a concert featuring Theresa Andersson.

“I think it’s great we’re bringing tennis to the fans there,” Seles said. “What the people have gone through is heartbreaking. I love New Orleans, I love the city. I’ve gone to JazzFest many times over the years.

“I played my third (professional) tennis tournament there, back in 1989, so I have some great memories from the place. My best friend got married there, so there is a lot of personal stuff for me there, too.”

The week’s events will include a children’s clinic that Seles and Naratilova will participate and teach. The goal is to provide a continued boost for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

“Obviously these are two of the biggest names in tennis history that people have a chance to see,” event promoter Leif Olson said. “One of the things we’re focused on is getting as many underpriviledged kids as possible out to this event.”

Seles has stuck with a rigorous training regimen each day, in hopes of regaining elite status. For now, she’ll take a peak at the climactic end of Wimbledon.

“As a player, you want all the players to be healthy, because you want Grand Slam events to be won when everybody is playing them,” Seles said. “That’s what you have this year at Wimbledon with the Williamses, Henin, Mauresmo, (Maria) Sharapova, and others.

“In the past, you didn’t have all the players. So it’s good to see that.”

Seles is hoping she might soon add to the mix.