Tennis: Seles condemns the pushy parents

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The Independent Online
Monica Seles returned to the Italian Open women's tennis tournament for the first time in five years yesterday with sharp words for pushy parents and child prodigies. The American, who won in Rome as a 16-year- old Yugoslavian newcomer in 1990, when she beat Martina Navratilova, discussed her younger rivals and their parents at a news conference on the first day of play.

"I've learned not to expect much from kids," the former teenage sensation said when asked how she felt about the new generation of youngsters, led by Switzerland's 16-year-old world No 1, Martina Hingis.

"What I don't like is parents putting their children on a tennis court as soon as they are born and forcing them to like tennis," said Seles, who at 17 had been the youngest world No 1 in history before Hingis emerged.

"Sixteen-year-old kids just want to have fun and I think that's what they should do," she said. However she admitted that she regretted rebelling against her own parents as a teenager and, asked if there was one thing she would change if she could be 16 again, jokingly replied "certainly the stabbing".

Seles described Hingis as clearly the best emerging player - although most might say that someone who has already earned the top ranking has already emerged. Hingis was to have been the top women's seed at the Foro Italico this year but she pulled out last month after injuring herself in a horse riding accident.

The world No 2 Steffi Graf is also absent from the Italian Open, leaving the third-ranked Seles as the clear favourite in the draw. Seles, who said she had overcome a recent injury and had been training for two weeks, was given a bye into the second round and faces the winner of the match between Czech qualifier Sandra Kleinova and Austria's Barbara Schett.

Andre Agassi angered officials yesterday by pulling out of the German Open a day before he was due to play his first-round match. The recently- married Agassi, due to meet Germany's Daniel Elsner in the opening round, said in a short faxed message to the Association of Tennis Professionals that he was pulling out due to a recurrent wrist injury.

German officials were annoyed both at the short notice of the withdrawal and by the fact that Agassi's message was not sent directly to them in Hamburg but to the ATP in Florida.