Tennis: Seles says she must 'live for today': Former world No 1 has no timetable for her return after stabbing

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The Independent Online
AS DOUBT continues to be cast over the future of Monica Seles, the former world No 1 has discussed the extent of the emotional difficulty caused by last April's stabbing on a court in Hamburg in an interview with the American magazine, Tennis.

'One of the most important things I learned over the last year,' Seles says, 'is that I'm the only one who has to deal with the reality of what happened to me. That reality is so strange and shocking, in so many ways, that I never set a timetable. The only 'right' time for me to play again is when I can see myself and think only this, 'Gosh, I'm happy again; this is fun'.'

Seles's agents, International Management Group, issued a statement on Wednesday saying that 'emotional issues' had resulted from the stabbing and their client would not be ready to play in the near future.

'I have to live for the day, and not worry about or try to know what tomorrow brings,' the 20-year-old Seles tells Tennis. 'Before I was stabbed, I always lived for tomorrow - my next match, my next tournament. But if I've learned one thing from all that's happened to me, it's that if you would know what tomorrow brings, you may not want to live it.'

Reviewing a career which has yielded eight Grand Slam titles in five years, dollars 7.4m ( pounds 5m) in official prize-money, and an undisclosed fortune from endorsements, Seles says: 'I have watched myself on tape, and I always looked very emotional, very focused, and totally into what is happening on the court. But even though I see myself, I do not recognise myself, because that isn't really me - it's just a part of me, a part that I call my 'second personality'. And I don't know if that second personality will ever come out again in that way, because at the time that I was stabbed, I was living a very different life. In some ways, it was a very closed-off life.

'I've had a lot of time to think since that day, and a lot of time to decide what my priorities are. And I decided that I want to live the rest of my life happy with what I'm doing. So when I play tennis again, I have to play it for the right reason. I don't want to play to get my No 1 ranking back. I don't want to play for the attention, or to earn more. I don't even want to play because the world wants to see me do it, even though it's nice to know that the world is interested. I only want to play because I love the game, which is the reason I began to play at age seven in the first place.'

Seles speaks of life without stress while rehabilitating at her home in Sarasota, Florida. 'One of the big changes in me is that I'm not that cautious any more. I guess that's ironic, because I heard all the rumours about how I was in a mental institution, how I was an emotional wreck. But it's almost like the opposite is true. I don't spend any time looking over my shoulder. In fact, now I'm less afraid to try lots of the things I never had a chance to do. I don't think I'll ever think about going skiing, or ice skating, and then just shut out the idea because I might fall and get hurt. I just don't worry about things like that any more.'

What does concern her is the two-year suspended sentence given to her assailant, Gunther Parche. 'It does go through my mind, and it's bound to go through my mind even more when I step on a tennis court: the guy who attacked me got what he wanted (Steffi Graf's return to No 1), and he was let out, free. The message sent by that is that what he did to me was OK. I think anybody in my situation could have a big problem with that, which is why I don't want to play until I'm really clear on all of that.'

Meanwhile, she practises, paying particular attention to her volleying, and visits a gym, frequently in the company of the American track coach, Bob Kersee, and his wife, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the Olympic gold medallist. 'Overall, the thrust of my work-outs has been toward the physical, the effort to become a better athlete.'

An inner voice, Seles says, is telling her that she is going to to play tennis again. 'I don't just want to be remembered for grunting and giggling. I hated being known for that] And I don't just want to be the one who got stabbed. I want to be remembered for my game, and I want to give something back to the game so the players coming up can feel safer on the court - or know they have a pension plan. There's still a lot I want to accomplish.'

Becker set for Stich, page 39

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