AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (AP) — Her injured foot was the least of the worries for Monica Seles. She also had a nasty crick in her neck that almost ended her comeback before it began.
In her first match after a seven-week layoff, Seles struggled to defeat Anca Barna 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 at the Bausch & Lomb Championships on Wednesday.
This week was supposed to be an opportunity for the sixth-seeded Seles to play on the cushy, green clay at Amelia Island and see how her left foot would respond after a stress fracture in February.
She almost withdrew, however, when she slept weird on her neck Monday night and it seized up on her the next morning. She was able to play because the draw was favorable, and she didn’t have her first match until Wednesday.
“I really couldn’t move it at all,” Seles said. “I couldn’t practice, nothing. It was one of those things where you’re stuck. You can’t look to the left or right.”
True to her word, she barely moved her neck during the winner’s news conference. Before that, in the first set of her match, she needed a timeout for a trainer to come to the court and massage out some of the pain.
Seles said she felt lucky to win that close tiebreaker — “Either player can win at 5-all,” she said — and is glad she’ll get some more chances to test the foot before the meat of the clay-court season begins. The French Open starts May 26.
“Instead of going over to Europe and saying, ‘Gee, my foot is not doing too good,’ I really enjoy Amelia Island, so I thought this would be the perfect combination,” Seles said. “I just really came down here wanting to get some matches and have a good time.”
Seles, who won here in 1999 and 2000, will play a third-round match Thursday against 10th-seeded Nathalie Dechy, who defeated Maria Vento-Kabchi 7-5, 4-6, 7-5.