Seles' triumph marked by mixed emotions

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When Monica Seles beat Anke Huber 6-4, 6-1 on Saturday to win the women's singles in Melbourne, instead of savouring her first major title since returning to competition, she left the Australian Open in tears, leaving her championship trophy behind after revealing how deeply the stabbing in Germany three years ago still affects her.

She showed strength and determination in the match, but revealed fragility in the post-match press conference when she was asked if she would play any tournaments in Germany. "A lot has happened," Seles said, "that will never be erased." She spoke of the "bunch of lies" that had been written about her never returning to Germany, though she acknowledged it would be hard for her to feel safe going back.

However, the questions persisted. "Monica, would that complete your recovery to go back to Germany, do you think?" she was asked. "I don't know," she replied. "I mean, whatever happened there has not been fair. I don't want to think about that." She began to cry, saying "don't take pictures of this."

Someone tried to change the subject, to talk about the Olympics, but Seles said: "I'm blocking you out, I'm sorry." Unable to continue, she left the room, and the stadium.

However, the strength she has shown in her recovery is remarkable. Not only has she recovered from the stabbing in Hamburg to become a Grand Slam champion again, she has also overcome nagging injuries and illness, including a strained shoulder that left her unable to lift her arm the day before her semi-final against Chanda Rubin.

Her toughness on court was well demonstrated when, recovering from a 2-5 deficit in the third set against Rubin, she came within two points of losing, won five consecutive games and ended up winning 6-7, 6-1, 7- 5.

Two days later she was overcoming an early break of serve to win a first set of brilliant baseline tennis against Huber.

She could not serve as fast as before she hurt her shoulder, and a pre- tournament groin strain reduced her efficiency in covering the court. But, even though she was often forced to rely on lunging one-handed shots, she triumphed - as she has in all the 28 matches she has played in this championship since 1991 - to become a Grand Slam champion for the ninth time and justify her joint No 1 ranking with Steffi Graf.