Monica Seles had been missing from the women's tour for 28 months but there did not seem to be much missing from her game when she made an emotional return to competitive tennis this week.
She arrived in Toronto equipped with her old array of shots apparently all present and so many correct that she swept poor Kimberly Po out of the Canadian Open 6-0, 6-3 in only an hour on Tuesday. Then, last night, she thrashed Nathalie Tauziat 6-2, 6-2.
The victory over Po left Seles overcome with emotion. Tears flowed as she kissed friends and family at courtside. "For a long time, everything was so dark," she said. "Now I see the sun."
Seles relaxed for her first tournament match, which came 837 days after she was stabbed by a spectator in Hamburg. The episode threatened to end the career of a player who had won seven of the previous eight grand slam tournaments and was No 1 in the world.
Three security guards sat behind the players' chairs, facing the fans, but there was nothing but support for Seles, who seemed to cope well with the ordeal.
It took just about an hour for Seles, playing in her first tournament in more than two years, to demolish Tauziat. But like the Seles of old, she wasn't satisfied with her performance. When it was pointed out to her that she lost only four points on her service in the first set and seven points in the second, she said: "I'm surprised at that. It felt different. I'm happy if that's the case."
Her performance made it seem improbable that she has been away from competitive tennis for so long. In her first match, against Po, she showed a bit of rust. But the troubles seemed to disappear overnight, although some suggest she has not regained her old turn of foot yet. She is about 10lb overweight and hopes to get rid of some of the excess before the US Open in two weeks' time.
Seles, whose fellow top seed Steffi Graf has already been eliminated, said she did not get to sleep until late after her Tuesday evening match against Po and "was a bit worried" about playing an early afternoon match on Wednesday.
Tauziat said: "I think she has almost the same game as two years ago, except when you put the ball in the corners she doesn't get to it the way she did two years ago."
Tauziat, ranked 17th in the world, has complained in the past about Seles's trademark grunting noises on court. But she noted that Seles "screamed less than she did two years ago".Reuse content