Seles stabbed on court by German spectator

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MONICA Seles, the world number one woman tennis player, was stabbed in the back by a spectator during a break in play at a tournament in Hamburg yesterday.

Doctors at the hospital to which Ms Seles, 19, was taken said that she had been seriously injured but that her life was not in danger. She is expected to be discharged today but is likely to be out of action for about four weeks, missing the Italian Open, which begins on Monday, and the French Open, which begins on 24 May.

Police said that a 38-year-old man who claimed to have been born in the eastern German state of Thuringia had been detained. A spokesman said later: 'There were no political grounds'. He added that the man appeared to be drunk and confused, and might be mentally disturbed.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack there had been speculation that Ms Seles, an ethnic Hungarian from the Serbian province of Vojvodina, might have been attacked by a Bosnian Muslim or Croatian extremist.

ABC television reported late last night that the assailant told police he did not wish to kill Ms Seles, but had stabbed her because he was a fervent fan of Steffi Graf.

The attack came as Ms Seles was heading for victory in her quarter final match against the Bulgarian Magdelena Maleewa in the Kraft tour Citizen Cup in Hamburg. Her assailant, who had crept up to the first row in the stand, moved out to where the players were having their break, pulled out a knife and thrust it into Ms Seles's back.

Ms Seles let out a scream, ran forwards a few paces and then collapsed on the court.

While Ms Seles was given immediate first aid, her attacker was detained. The knife used was said to have been 25 centimetres (10 inches) long, while the wound, close to the spinal cord and narrowly missing a lung, was an estimated two centimetres deep.

Ana Leaird, a director of the Florida-based Women's Tennis Association, said that Ms Seles, who still lists her country as Yugoslavia despite living in Florida, has received a number of politically motivated death threats over the past couple of years.

Ms Seles has won eight Grand Slam tournament titles, but has never spoken out publicly on the conflict in former Yugoslavia, insisting that sport and politics should not be mixed.

Security at this year's Wimbledon championships will have to be reviewed because of the attack, Chris Gorringe, chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, said last night . 'Obviously we will have to look at the situation and take all the necessary precautions that we possibly can. Security at the championships is pretty good at the moment.'

Future in doubt, page 52

(Photograph omitted)

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