Seles' shoulder still a sore point

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The Independent Online

Her grunting may have intimidated the seagulls, but all was not well with Monica Seles at the Direct Line Insurance Championships here yesterday. Although she successfully negotiated her first match on a grass court for four years, 6-2, 6-4, she neither looked nor spoke like the second favourite for Wimbledon.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Seles has a weight on her shoulder. She is worried that a tear in the socket of her serving arm will handicap her first appearance at the All England Club since being overwhelmed by Steffi Graf in the final on 4 July 1992.

In addition to the physical problem, Seles is concerned that she is unable to hold her concentration as a result of the the stop-go nature of her comeback since recovering from being stabbed in 1993.

"The match toughness is not there," Seles said, who was annoyed, in particular, that she had failed to break serve in two games in the second set in which she held a 40-0 lead against her American compatriot, Meredith McGrath. "My mind wandered away from the court," Seles said. "I won't be able to do that at Wimbledon.''

It is worth pointing out that McGrath, ranked No 29 in the world, is good enough on grass to have won the title here in 1994 and to have beaten Nathalie Tauziat in the final of the DFS Classic at Edgbaston last Sunday.

While pleased to have saved 10 break points yesterday, McGrath acknowledged that she did not do enough to press Seles, either by attacking the net or luring her opponent into difficulty with drop shots. "I didn't do the things I needed to do to beat her, but she was hitting the ball so deep," McGrath said. "I guess I was just outplayed.''

McGrath, who had never encountered Seles before, did not sense that her opponent's shots were being delivered by a dodgy shoulder. "I was more in tune with what was going on on my side of the court than how here body felt," she said. "From where I was standing, she did not seem to hold back too much.''

Seles said the condition of her shoulder had not been helped by practising and playing with balls which she found to be heavier than those used at the French Open, where she lost to Jana Novotna in the quarter-finals. "I hope the weather at Wimbledon will be sunny and that the damp doesn't make the balls even so heavy that they kill my shoulder.''

Seles, who had a bye in the first round, now plays Ines Gorrochategui in the quarter-finals. The 23-year-old Argentinian, who has been prone to injuries this year, surprised everyone yesterday by winning her first match of the season, 6-2, 6-3. Her opponent was the American seventh seed, Lori McNeil, who caused the sensation of Wimbledon two years ago by eliminating Graf, the defending champion, in the first round.

Chanda Rubin, seeded No 7 for Wimbledon, retired during her match against Lisa Raymond, an American compatriot, after aggravating the tendon injury in her right wrist which caused her to miss the French Open.

"I definitely don't want to jeopordise Wimbledon," said Rubin, who decided not to risk worsening the injury further after losing the opening set, 6-3. "I'll have to decide whether to go back home to to see my own doctor or to see a doctor in London.''