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?
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Corporate Tax Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

£15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home