Seles is back with a vengeance

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The Independent Online

After a 28-month absence, Monica Seles completed a remarkable return to tournament competition by winning the Canadian Open in Toronto yesterday.

Seles had not played competitively since being stabbed in the back at a match in Hamburg in April 1993, but cruised to a 6-0, 6-1 victory over the South African Amanda Coetzer.

Seles, who had routed Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina 6-1, 6-0 in the semi-finals in only 48 minutes, was just as devastating in the final, needing only 51 minutes to defeat Coetzer.

"I just can't believe it," Seles said, dissolving into floods of tears after victory. "Not playing in such a long time and then playing so well. It's unbelievable.

"There were so many emotions to get to this point. The two years were so hard. From that day to this day - what a difference."

Seles, who did not drop a set in the tournament, won the first seven games of the match before Coetzer held serve in the second game of the second set. Seles then won the next five games to close out the match.

"I kept telling myself, it's great what you've already done even if you don't win this tournament," Seles said. "Be happy whatever happens. But this is really amazing."

Seles beat the American, Kimberly Po, 6-0, 6-3 in her first match, Nathalie Tauziat of France 6-2, 6-2 in the third round and Anke Huber of Germany 6-3, 6-2 in the quarter-finals.

The 74 games in five matches broke the tournament record for least number of games for a champion. Seles lost just 14 games and had her serve broken only twice in the five matches.

The only match that lasted more than one hour was her quarter-final win over Huber in one hour six minutes.

Coetzer had advanced to the final with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over the fourth- seeded Czech, Jana Novotna, in the semi-finals after beating Seles's joint top seed Steffi Graf and the fifth seed, Mary Pierce of France, earlier in the tournament.

"I didn't feel intimidated by the hype around Monica," Coetzer said. "She just didn't allow me to play my game. She doesn't give you a lot of time. You have to get used to how fast the ball comes at you. You get to a point where you're confused. I wasn't sure what to do."

Graf, who lost in the first round, spoke to a German magazine about the media coverage of a tax investigation that has resulted in her father going to jail. She said she will not walk away from the game, her father or her native Germany.

Peter Graf was arrested this month on suspicion of evading taxes on money his daughter earned. "It doesn't matter what has happened or what is going to happen. He is my father. I will stand by him and always see him as my father," she said.

Asked if she would consider leaving Germany to avoid high taxes, she said: "I cannot imagine leaving Germany. I want to live in Germany, as I have until now. And I will pay my taxes where I live."

She said she had not lost her taste for the game and will play in the US Open. However, she admitted she would have a hard time putting her legal troubles out of her mind at the year's final Grand Slam tournament.

Graf, who said she had no idea how much money she had or where it might be, said she was prepared to take more direct control over her finances and that her main sponsors were helping her select a new financial manager.

n Andre Agassi, the world No 1 and top seed, saved two match points in the 11th game of the second set before beating Richard Krajicek, the eighth seed from the Netherlands, to win the Volvo International title in New Haven, Connecticut. The American triumphed 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 and has now won 20 successive matches and four consecutive tournament titles.