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scoot
04-25-2005, 03:57 PM
Seles' career took downturn after 1993 stabbing


By Dick Heller


The opponents sat in their chairs during the changeover, toweling off and planning tactics. One of them, Monica Seles, was the world's top-ranked female player, and deservedly so.
Spectators turned their eyes away from the court, discussing the match. The scene was peaceful at Rothenbaum Tennis Club in Hamburg, Germany, a genteel, tree-lined venue. Then, without warning, disaster struck.
A stocky, balding man wearing a plaid shirt and jeans and carrying a green plastic bag slipped down an aisle onto the court, paused behind Seles and from the bag withdrew a 9-inch boning knife. A fan nearby screamed, and Seles twisted around slightly. Too late! The man plunged his knife into her upper back at an angle.

Seles shrieked, leaped from her chair and stood with her hand clasped to the back of her neck as blood spread over her white tennis shirt. Another man jumped over the barricade and attempted to aid her. Sobbing, she collapsed against him, and he lowered her gently to the ground while police collared her assailant.
The date was April30, 1993, and Seles had been playing Magdalena Maleeva in a quarterfinal match of the Citizen Cup tournament, winning the first set 6-4 and leading the second 4-3. At 19, Seles was Steffi Graf's only rival as the best women's player in the world. Grunting loudly on nearly every return, Monica had collected 32 singles titles in four years, including seven of the last eight Grand Slam events she had entered, and her tennis future appeared limitless.
Until, that is, an unemployed German lathe operator named Gunther Parche appeared on the scene with his knife. One thrust and a marvelous tennis career was virtually over.
Seles spent two days at Hamburg Hospital though she could have left sooner. That Saturday, she received an emotional visit from Graf, who told reporters, "I would say she is very depressed. ... This hurts me, too. It hurts me to know that it happened in Germany, that guy is German and that apparently he's a fan of mine."

More than two years later, with Seles absent from the court for 27 months, her father, Karolj, stated the sad truth candidly: "[Until the stabbing,] Monica was a girl who was laughing all the time, having fun. All that is now gone."
The crime brought into the open a fear that haunts all famous people: Will someone try to gain notoriety at my expense? Sometimes celebrities are stalked. Sometimes they receive anonymous death threats. But rarely has an athlete suffered as much as Seles.
At first, the attack seemed political in nature given the ethnic wars in Seles' homeland, the former Yugoslavia, although she had lived in Florida since 1986 and became a naturalized American citizen. She and her family are ethnically Hungarian but often are mistaken for Serbs because they come from Novi Sad, a village near Bosnia controlled by Serbs.
But, no, Parche had a much different reason: He was indeed a huge fan of Graf and wanted to "help" her regain the No. 1 ranking. And for Seles, the aftermath was nearly as painful as the assault.
Parche was charged merely with "causing grievous bodily harm" rather than a more serious charge, such as attempted manslaughter. When his first trial ended Oct. 13, 1993, Parche received only a two-year suspended sentence because Judge Elke Bosse found his promise not to hurt anyone again "absolutely believable." One German press report indicated the judge had shown "disturbing sympathy toward Parche and his orgiastic fantasies about Graf."
After 19 months, there was a new trial and Judge Gertraut Goring upheld the verdict, saying Seles' refusal to testify was a determining factor.
In 1995, Seles was attending the opening of a tennis center in Williamsburg, one of her very few public appearances since the stabbing, when she was told Parche had been released. Falling into the arms of her mother, Esther, she began sobbing uncontrollably.
"How can anyone say it's OK to do what this man did to another human being?" she said.
Why hadn't she testified against Parche?
"How can they have expected me to go back [to Hamburg]?" Seles said. "I mean, I would have had to sit in the courtroom with my back to him."
Parche's obsession with Graf did not lessen after he returned to his hometown of Gorsbach, in the former East Germany. He continued to write her letters and send her money on her birthday. He later admitted sending a threatening letter to German track star Heike Dreschler but added, "I'm not nearly as fanatical as I used to be."
For Seles, that was small consolation.
After two years as a virtual recluse, Seles tried to resume her tennis career during the summer of 1995. She won an exhibition against Martina Navratilova in Atlantic City, N.J., then captured the Canadian Open in Toronto without losing a set. In the U.S. Open, she reached the final -- against Graf -- before losing. Then she won her fourth Australian Open in 1996, and people started saying the old Seles was back.
She wasn't, of course. Monica started to experience multiple injuries from shoulder to knee. Worst of all, the memories never left her.
"There are flashbacks [to Hamburg]," she once said. "I tell myself, 'You're in a match -- just go out and play great tennis.' But the reality is still there, and I can't forget it. The reality is that it happened. It will always be there."
When Parche went on trial, she sent a letter to be read in court: "I only want proper justice. This attack tremendously and irreparably damaged my life and stopped my tennis career. ... He has not been successful in his attempt to kill me, but he has destroyed my life."
At 31, Seles is a tennis has-been today, but many wonder just how good she might have been.
Navratilova, one of the greatest female players ever, put it this way: "Never mind the life-altering event it was -- the stabbing changed the course of tennis history. We'll never know how many more tournaments, how many more Grand Slams she would have won."
Surely unfulfilled promise is the saddest specter in sports -- especially when it is caused by someone else.

Andy Hewitt
04-25-2005, 06:10 PM
Hi, I am AWESOME!

ragnaROK
04-25-2005, 07:06 PM
That's not something you just "get over" it still haunts you whether you like it or not.

scoot
04-25-2005, 07:11 PM
Especially when you are a high profile athlete at 19 years old. Being famous is scary enough, but living with the threat of being murdered in one's place of work?

Morpheus
04-25-2005, 07:16 PM
Seles would have been GOAT. The guy never even served time, (yet, in a ironic twist of fate, Graf's father did for tax evasion).

Haka Boy
04-25-2005, 07:18 PM
Andy I think your words are a little harsh. Easy for you to say “**** happens, get over it” Have you ever been in Seles' position in life? I doubt it from your words - "I just don’t get the whole haunting memories thing"
The FACTS are that ALL victims of crime regardless of the degree of brutality as you and I see it, always carry some emotional turmoil from the attack for the rest of their life.

fleabitten
04-25-2005, 07:36 PM
Ok, u got stabbed, someone doesnt like u, **** happens, get over it.
No. It's not that simple. I was mugged a few years ago. Late at night, two men jumped me and beat the **** out of me and stole all my valuables. I'm not asking for sympathy here, but I always think about it when I walk alone at night. You can't get over it. I imagine for Seles, every time she steps on the court with a crowd behind her, she remembers.

fb

bamboo
04-25-2005, 09:04 PM
THat sux, read about it on ESPN a while back. I just dont get the whole "haunting memories" thing. Ok, u got stabbed, someone doesnt like u, **** happens, get over it.
Many special forces soldiers cannot just get over similar events - it's called post-traumatic stress disorder. Audie Murphy, our most decorated WWII vet, essentially had his life ruined by it.

Andy Hewitt
04-25-2005, 09:05 PM
MMMmmmm... Monica Selles....

Haka Boy
04-25-2005, 09:16 PM
MMMmmmm... Monica Selles....
and............?

Andy Hewitt
04-25-2005, 09:55 PM
and............?
The Yummage

Haka Boy
04-25-2005, 10:40 PM
The Yummage
Could you explain furtherr what yummage means?

Deuce
04-26-2005, 12:25 AM
Don't provoke him. He's revealed that he's an *** - we don't really need to know how big of an ***...

Camilio Pascual
04-26-2005, 03:35 AM
Perhaps Monica's parents (& entourage) fell down on the job. I'd really like to know what advice she was given about testifying, which she really should have done for her own benefit. Confronting one's attacker can be very therapeutic and it would have helped her psychologically to have done so, she may have been a multiple Majors winner again for having done it, too. Her Dad's description of her behaviour before and after the stabbing is compelling and very descriptive of how youthful joy can be stolen forever.

paulfreda
04-26-2005, 04:06 AM
I agree that she should have found the courage to put that sob away by testifying. But we have to remember she was just a 19 yr old kid when almost assasinated. And a few years later she was not likley yet a fully mature adult.
It is outrageous that judges can have so little regard for justice. Are the prisons so full that laborers are not needed somewhere for people to do hard time ?

Monica won 7 of 8 GSlams at that point. Few men or women in tennis history can match that accomplishment. My guess is she would have gone on to win more than 20 GS's and Steffi would have settled for less than 15 rather than the 23 or 4 she eventually did rack up.

The good news is that Monica lived and she has a full life ahead of her.
I wish I could be 31 again !!!

johnmcc516
04-26-2005, 04:18 AM
You can't forget that. She was attacked at a place she probably felt extremely comfortable, a tennis court. Now everytime she sat in the chair, she would have flashbacks of that event. I feel horrible for her but more then that, I wish the guy would have been sentenced for attempted manslaughter. Justice systems suck.

Camilio Pascual
04-26-2005, 05:13 AM
But we have to remember she was just a 19 yr old kid when almost assasinated.

The good news is that Monica lived and she has a full life ahead of her.

Exactly! Which is why I fault the adults around her.

I'll bet that's the way Monica looks at it, too. She still has had a great career and only retirement is between her and the HOF.

larrhall
04-26-2005, 06:15 AM
It happened at 19; she came back at 22. Based on how Monica was dominating Graf, there is no doubt she would have controlled that rivalry. Perhaps a Davenport or Hingis or Williams, V., would have changed that. Most likely, Seles would have tapered off by '98/'99; by then she would have won an amazing number of Majors. Between her age, the fact that Graf was the beneficiary and then became the GOAT, the apparent fact that Steffi was cool towards Seles (in Seles' perception, certainly) afterwards, the absolute failure to punish this German guy in Germany - that's hardly a recipe for her to wake up one day and say, 'Okay, fine, that's over now.' She dreamed of being a tennis champion from age 5 or whatever it was. BTW, Novi Sad is not a 'village controlled by Serbs' but a large city in northern Serbia. This is not the place to discuss the media's coverage of events in the Balkans, but it is interesting that Serb sovereignty is symbolically challenged by the media. I don't see questions about the Croat flag and the history of the Utashe and the connection to Naziism, so perhaps major newspapers could get that right. I don't see the San Jose Mercury, for instance, placing San Diego in northern Mexico.

Monica got a raw deal all the way around. In my book she's still a champ with a huge heart.

Andy Hewitt
04-26-2005, 07:42 AM
Don't provoke him. He's revealed that he's an *** - we don't really need to know how big of an ***...
I know, Im SUCH AN ***! Wow! I should just kill myself because I dont feel sorry for someone who cant add to their already existing $14,891,762 in prize money!! NOO!!! God!! THE BURDEN!!! HER LIFE IS SO HORRIBLE!!!!!!

Too bad she wont be able to expiernce getting up and working everyday... so sad....

TheNatural
04-26-2005, 02:46 PM
It happened at 19; she came back at 22. Based on how Monica was dominating Graf, there is no doubt she would have controlled that rivalry. Perhaps a Davenport or Hingis or Williams, V., would have changed that. Most likely, Seles would have tapered off by '98/'99; by then she would have won an amazing number of Majors. Between her age, the fact that Graf was the beneficiary and then became the GOAT, the apparent fact that Steffi was cool towards Seles (in Seles' perception, certainly) afterwards, the absolute failure to punish this German guy in Germany - that's hardly a recipe for her to wake up one day and say, 'Okay, fine, that's over now.' She dreamed of being a tennis champion from age 5 or whatever it was. BTW, Novi Sad is not a 'village controlled by Serbs' but a large city in northern Serbia. This is not the place to discuss the media's coverage of events in the Balkans, but it is interesting that Serb sovereignty is symbolically challenged by the media. I don't see questions about the Croat flag and the history of the Utashe and the connection to Naziism, so perhaps major newspapers could get that right. I don't see the San Jose Mercury, for instance, placing San Diego in northern Mexico.

Monica got a raw deal all the way around. In my book she's still a champ with a huge heart.

Theres no denying Sele's trauma cause by her stabbing but...

Her record against Graf, Hingis, Davenport, serena and Venus Wiliams is more of a reflection of the shortcomings in her game. All of these players dominated Seles. Graf never had a losing record against anyone in her career.
Btw Graf had a winning record against Seles even during Seles most successful years ever.(she was just lucky enough to avoid Graf in alot of finals as Graf happened to lose to some others like Sabattini etc,before the finals, during those years.)

tiadeserbia
04-26-2005, 03:39 PM
There is nothing she could do. She played under Yugoslav flag in the time when the war was starting, and she was getting threats every day saying that her house will be bombed, that her parents would be killed, etc. It is a lot of pressure for any normal person.

gugafanatic
04-26-2005, 03:56 PM
great article, Is SELES RETIRED??

Scorch
04-27-2005, 04:29 AM
Comparing Monica's results after her comeback to potential results had she had the opportunity to continue (i.e. not bee attacked and forced out of the game) is hard to do...

but....

the second before Monica was stabbed she was the best female player in the world by a LONG way. You could argue that 'over the last 3 years her record against so and so was not good' BUT the momentum of her dominance was massive. She had won 8 out of the last 12 slams (and that is with her not competing in one of them) and also the last 3 year end championships had been number one since march 1991 (so for 2 years solid) and won a ton of other tournaments.

But most of all she was GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME!!! She was playing smarter and adding extra elements to her game (in the oz open final in '93 she even served volleyed on a couple of points - I never saw her do that since the comeback).

After the attack the biggest achievement was to come back and just play tennis, the ambition was basically never the same and therefore neither was the motivation and dedication (and the death of her father and coach - the driving force behind her tennis was also a factor). In many ways she had to start from scratch, the aura was gone, people did not fear her as they did and the fitness was not there anymore.

Fate dealt monica a cruel hand but it is to her massive credit that she handled it in such a gracious way. I think she actually has inspired more people than any other tennis player.

Progressive10s
04-27-2005, 04:58 AM
The Natural points out that Monica had a losing record versus Steffi, but looking at their head-to-head matches in the three years leading up to the stabbing Seles had beaten Graf 3-1 in their matches in Grand Slam finals. Steffi dominated their matches early in Monica's career and when she returned after the stabbing in 1995. To address her record against the Williamses, Hingis, and Davenport is irrevelant because Monica wasn't the same player after the stabbing. In comparison, Hingis dominated her early matches versus the Williams sister, but they eventually turned the corner and dominated her. Monica had the best of the rivalry versus Steffi at the time, and that's what angered the fanatical Parche.