Two years and two months after being stabbed during a match, Monica Seles said on Saturday that her mental anxiety was finally under control and that she hoped to play in the U.S. Open, which begins on Aug. 28.
After giving a clinic at the Special Olympics, and only 5 hours after Steffi Graf won her sixth Wimbledon singles title in England, the former top-ranked player stood at a podium in a hospitality tent at the Yale athletic complex to preside over a news conference, a rare event since she was stabbed in Hamburg, Germany, in 1993.
The 21-year-old Seles said her return was 99 percent sure, but did not mention any other tournaments besides the Open.
“I hope to return,” she said. “I hope to play in the United States Open. I believe I can do that.”
When she was asked whether her return would depend on having her No. 1 ranking restored, she left no doubt what she would do.
“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I’m going to play anyway.”
The WTA Tour, which runs the women’s pro tour, had considered giving her an unlimited wild-card entry into the main draw of all of its tournaments this year, except perhaps the year-ending WTA Tour championship, and co-rank and co-seed her as No. 1 for a specific amount of time.
Seles said that offer had been withdrawn, so she would have to depend on wild-card entries from the tournaments themselves to get into events until she regained a high ranking. She said that did not concern her because she knew she could get wild cards into any tournaments she wanted.
“I just want to go back and have fun,” she said. “If I’m good, I’ll be there.”
Seles had previously announced that she would make her first public appearance July 29 in an exhibition match against Martina Navratilova in the Atlantic City Convention Center. Navratilova has retired from tournament singles but occasionally plays doubles, as she is doing at Wimbledon.
Seles, an ethnic Hungarian who was born in Novi Sad in Yugoslavia, has lived in the United States since 1986 and has become an American citizen. She lives on an estate she bought in Sarasota, Fla.
In March 1991, when she was 17, she took the No. 1 ranking from Graf and became the youngest female or male to attain that honor.
She has won eight Grand Slam titles, including the 1991 and 1992 U.S. Opens. With her left-handed serves and devastating two-handed ground strokes, she reached the final of every tournament she played in 1991. In 1992, her record was 70-5. In her young career, she earned $7 million in prize money and much more in commercial endorsements and appearance fees.
The stabbing that until now had left Seles’ future so cloudy occurred on April 30, 1993. Seles was playing Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria. At a change-over between games, Seles was sitting in a chair, her back to the nearby grandstand, when Guenter Parche, a 38-year-old German lathe operator, walked toward her, unnoticed by security guards.
He leaned over, pulled out a 9-inch boning knife and stabbed her between the shoulder blades. He was quickly overpowered by security guards and spectators.
The half-inch wound tore muscles and injured soft tissue. It affected muscles that rotated the shoulder, muscles chiefly involved in the serve and overhead. The initial report said Seles would miss only three or four weeks. There was no indication she would be absent so long.
“I am taking it day by day,” Seles said six days after the stabbing.
“I love this game too much to retire. I’m a strong person mentally and on the court, too. I just want to get back, hit the ball, and go forward with my life. Physically and mentally, it will take a while.”
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