Monica's meltdown

John Roberts recounts the day when a fairy-tale comeback was cheated of a happy ending

Aesthetically speaking, the home of the United States Open bears little or no comparison to Wimbledon. Flushing Meadows, New York, was once used for dumping and burning Brooklyn's rubbish - F Scott Fitzgerald called it " a valley of ashes" in The Great Gatsby - but the place atones by staging many of the most exciting tennis matches imaginable, despite weird scheduling.

Female players, while treated equally with men in terms of the tournament's prize money - $575,000 went to each of this year's singles champions - seem almost to be regarded as an afterthought on the day of the final. Their lot, on what is known as "Super Saturday", is to be sandwiched between the two men's singles semi-finals to satisfy television's demands.

But no one doubted which match rated top billing on 9 September - Steffi Graf versus Monica Seles. The two greatest players of their generation, jointly ranked No 1 in the world, had played their way to the most eagerly awaited contest for years.

An American commentator said Seles and Graf had bothbeen stabbed in the back: Seles, in reality, 29 months earlier, by a fanatical Graf fan who wanted to see the German restored to No 1 in the world rankings; Graf, figuratively, by her father/ manager Peter, who was in prison accused of evading millions of marks in tax on her earnings.

Graf had won six of the 10 major championships played in Seles's absence since the stabbing in Hamburg in 1993, each victory perceived by many to have been hollow. Through no fault of her own, Graf had come to be regarded as the dominating force in a diminished league in which other competitors prospered chiefly when she was unfit.

Seles, restored physically and mentally and granted a share of the No 1 ranking which had been hers at the time of the attack, had altered only slightly. Aged 19 when assaulted, she was, at 21, an inch and a half taller - 5ft 11in. She had also gained a few pounds around the middle and had provoked a niggling knee injury trying to run them off.

Otherwise, she was as we remembered - the flurry of two-handed strokes, the screwing up of the nose in concentration, the grunting (perhaps not so loud or frequent as before, but given vent if the going got tough), and the giggling, which continued to punctuate interviews.

The credibility of women's tennis was at stake when Graf and Seles eventually made their way to the Stadium Court. The fact that Seles, although rusty, had won the 11 matches of her comeback without losing a set hardly reflected credit on her opponents. If Graf, her equal, also suffered humiliation, potential sponsors could have been lost to the sport.

However, all these misgivings were cast aside when the action began, 20,000 spectators thrilling to an oscillating contest. At the end, only one point separated the players. And it was in Graf's favour - at 7-6, 0-6, 6-3.

More than two years of pain and anguish seemed to evaporate as Graf and Seles embraced - a day of splendour in a valley of ashes.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'