Tennis: Compensation for Seles could total dollars 10m: Injured reigning champion takes spotlight as Graf advances smoothly to second round in United States Open

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MONICA SELES commanded the media attention simply by showing up and giving an interview when the United States Open began here yesterday. Along with the talk of rehabilitation from the knife attack in Germany four months ago came the opening shots of the financial reckoning. Claims for compensation could be as high as dollars 10m (pounds 6.5m).

Bob Kain, the executive vice-president of Seles's agents, International Management Group, confirmed that insurance companies would soon face bills for the player's loss of earnings, her loss of No 1 status and her medical expenses at a specialised sports injuries clinic in Colorado. 'Monica has insurance and the German Federation has insurance,' Kain said.

The stab wound in her back has caused Seles to miss the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, three of the four Grand Slam championships. She won the first of year's majors, the Australian Open, in January, defeating Steffi Graf in the final. A German spectator arrested after the attack during a match in Hamburg in April said he attacked Seles so that Graf would regain the No 1 ranking.

Seles, 19, has won dollars 7m in career prize-money, which puts her fourth behind Martina Navratilova, Graf and Chris Evert in the 25 years of the open era. Her earnings from tournaments are only a percentage of the fortune she has made from sponsorships and endorsements.

In the few interviews she has given since the incident, Seles has emphasised her failure to understand why there 'has to be a victim before changes are made'. She continued the theme here, saying: 'They changed the security measures after this happened, and I just felt they shouldn't have waited for somebody to get hurt.'

Asked if she considered the German Tennis Federation to be culpable, Seles said: 'The only thing I felt is that if they felt so secure with the security, why did they change this when it happened?'

By coincidence, IMG owns the German Open, and Kain made the point that 'there was extra security, sitting right behind the players. They just were watching the players instead of the people.'

Seles expressed disappointment that her No 1 ranking had been taken away by the Women's Tennis Association. 'This person's goal was to stab me. He came out as the person who got what he wanted and achieved what he set out to achieve. It happened to me on a court when I was playing a match and I absolutely had no chance of doing anything.'

Kain added: 'When something like this happens in a tennis tournament, it is not the same as a knee injury. It was something that was really out of her control.' He pointed out that when the WTA recently released Seles's projected schedule of tournaments for next year, it listed her as co-No 1 with Graf.

'If it suited the WTA to put me as a co-No 1 in the tournament list, why wouldn't they put me co-No 1 on the ranking list?' Seles said. 'They asked me how would I feel if they put me as second seed in all the tournaments from coming back, but my answer to that was what if I drop below the second position? Then it is not going to be fair to Arantxa (Sanchez Vicario) or to Martina (Navratilova), so why should I be No 2 at that point?'

Graf, who opened the tournament by defeating the American Robin White, 6-3, 6-0, in 42 minutes, said of the ranking situation: 'All of us have to struggle through injuries, through our problems and through tough matches and through tough tournaments. It has been a very sad incident, and it is tough for everybody, but I think it is difficult for us as the players to choose what to do. The way it has been handled, it is difficult to say if it is the right thing or not, but I think it has been handled as good as possible.'

The timing of Seles's return remains uncertain. 'The first step for me would be to hit a ball with my full swing with no pain, and to be able to hold the grip for a long time without feeling any numbness in my last three fingers (of her left hand, with which she serves). After that, it is just going to be a matter of practising.'

Though British participation in the championships is sparse, none of our males having qualified, Clare Wood made an impressive start by defeating Miriam Oremans, of the Netherlands, 6-3, 6-1, in 64 minutes.

'I haven't won too many matches in the 22 tournaments I've played this year, and this was very important for me,' said Wood, who plays the ninth seed, Anke Huber, of Germany, in the second round. 'It's a shame there are not more British players at the Grand Slams,' Wood added. 'It's not much fun on you own. It's a bit like solitary confinement. But it's a fact of life, and you've got to put up with it.'

Results, Sporting Digest, page 35