Those of us who remember spring 1993 will recall not only the murderous stabbing images that reverberated out of Hamburg, Germany, on April 30th, but also the sheer daring aggression of Monica Seles’s unorthodox game that mesmerized so many of us for the preceding four years. Whilst Martina Navratilova, Seles’s girlhood heroine who was still playing singles at the time, always had a classic attacking game, like those serve-and-volleyers who preceded her, Seles introduced a completely new dimension. She attacked from the back, the side, mid-court… anywhere and everywhere, except from the net. Here was a giggly young girl who had the consistency, accuracy and guts of a Chris Evert or Maureen Connolly, but with far more provocative and flamboyant shock appeal. Both her drives were crisp enough to slice the crusts off the cucumber sandwiches served up for tea at Wimbledon. During those early years, she made more inspirational impact on young players than anyone in tennis would have guessed, simply by her sheer tenacious presence on court. Today, in rather interesting era-overlapping, young players feel excited and privileged to compete in the same events as Seles. "I remember meeting Monica initially in California when I was about 10 years old," says Serena Williams. "I was really excited about it. It was this meeting that helped me realize I definitely wanted to be a pro. I even started to imitate her grunting!" Says Justine Henin-Hardenne, who lost her first four matches against Seles, but has won the last three. "I first saw her in the French final in 1992 when I was a schoolgirl. I was there with my parents as a result of winning a junior tennis prize in Belgium. Monica won 10-8 in the third set (against Steffi Graf). I remember it well. She is a legend to me, for sure. To come back after what happened in Germany is unbelievable. To my eyes, she is still the greatest fighter on the tour. I have a lot of respect for her." "What happened in Germany" remains perhaps one of the most shocking moments in sports. Gunter Parche leaned over the waist-high center court railing at the Rothenbaum Tennis Club and stabbed Seles in the back with a nine-inch boning knife while she sat court-side during a changeover in her Citizen Cup quarterfinal match against Maggie Maleeva. The physical injury, mercifully, was not too severe. The emotional injury, however, kept Seles off the tour for two years. Seles’s acknowledgment of how she was competing at her highest level when she was stabbed highlights the odd effect the incident has had on her career. It has literally divided her career in half, leaving one of the sport’s most dominant champions on one side and placing one of tennis’s most beloved competitors on the other. "In the ’80s and ’90s when she was dominating women’s tennis," says good friend Mary Joe Fernandez, "she won eight out of nine Grand Slam (tournaments) in a row — easily! Actually, she lost very few games. So fans naturally cheered for the underdog, as they always do, which, of course, was not her. However when she returned to the tour in 1995, they started to cheer for her because she was the sympathetic favorite after what she had experienced. She was the underdog. Those two things together really made her the fans’ choice to root for." "When I was starting, she was already No. 1 in the world," says Daniela Hantuchova. "She had just won so many Grand Slams. She can be so proud of what she has achieved in her tennis career. In September 1998, Seles said that she very much admired the way Chris Evert continued to play until she was 34. Seles went on to admit that she would like to do the same, saying that she was willing to pay the price. She has always been a hard worker. "We worked an eight- to 10-hour day from the beginning," says Nick Bollettieri, who had the foresight to invite Seles to train at his academy when she was still just a twig of a girl. "But it didn’t matter to her which day. It could be Monday, Saturday or Sunday — even Christmas Day. Heck, it was all the same to Monica. She had absolutely no idea how long she was out on court. She just wanted to be out working on her game." "Grunting" This was good and bad for Seles. It was good because Seles did not hold her breath. On the other hand, as her dominance escalated, jealousy and envy were not far behind. Some in tennis decided to take exception to her grunting. The All England Club (i.e., Wimbledon), unfortunately, was one. Seles was the odds-on favorite to win Wimbledon in 1992 and, as such, the No. 1 seed. Her only real rival was, of course, Steffi Graf, whom she had just beaten in the French Open final, the match Henin-Hardenne remembers so well. Nathalie Tauziat, in the quarterfinals, and Martina Navratilova, in the semifinals had complained about Seles’s grunting, citing it as a breach of Rule 21: If a player commits an act which hinders his/her opponent in making a stroke, then if this is deliberate, he/she shall lose the point. Seles’s exhaling was hardly deliberate, yet Referee Alan Mills was persuaded by the Committee of Management to caution her and introduce a "gruntometer" for the final against Graf. The idea was that if Seles’s grunts went above a certain decibel, she would forfeit the point. Wimbledon’s arrogance and flawed logic has been well-documented and, certainly, belongs to a bygone age. But the Seles family was understandably stunned. Simply, it was a cruel ploy to bring Seles down, reminiscent of biblical times and strong-man Samson being tricked into having his hair cut to see if that would sap his unusual strength. Both, unfortunately, had the desired effect. Seles lost tamely to Graf, 6-2, 6-1, and was unrecognizable as the same player. "I let it get to me, and I decided not to grunt," Seles says now. "[It] definitely wasn’t the right approach in the final at Wimbledon. If I get an opportunity again, I would probably do it differently. I would probably keep grunting. But to have a chance at Wimbledon right now is the least chance I would give myself from all the Grand Slams." There is sadness in that statement, considering what might have been. Seles’s father, Karolj, who insisted on being her sole advisor, should have persuaded Monica to call Wimbledon’s bluff and ignore their threats. No way would Wimbledon have had the nerve to disqualify their colorful, charismatic and much-publicized star. It would have made Wimbledon look more of a farce than it already was. Everyone was anxious to see Seles play Graf, particularly bearing in mind that Seles had mysteriously skipped the previous Wimbledon amid false rumors of a quickie marriage, elopement and, even, pregnancy. With or without her grunts, the public simply wanted to witness her superb style of play. With the insane stabbing nine months after the 1992 Wimbledon farce, it is actually fitting that Seles not only bounced back, but came back within two years as the most popular player on the WTA Tour. "Monica Seles is obviously a name that is well recognized by all our fans, sponsors and broadcasters," Buchholz says. "So when Monica plays, she adds a stamp of credibility to the event." Says Fernandez, who selected Seles to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, "We all came to realize that she is really a class act both on and off the court. She has this huge heart and is far more approachable today than she was in her teens. In fact, I believe that she alone has touched more people than any other player." Indeed, Seles maintains a certain approachability even with fans. One would understand if she were more leery, particularly since she questions whether current tour security measures are sufficient. "You’re totally accessible (to fans),” she says. "There’s no other sport that you’re as accessible as in tennis." But she does not complain. Quite often, she is not even recognized. Or she is held in such high regard that fans respectfully give her space. "Certainly tennis was changed forever simply by her presence," Buchholz says. "I think it’s very hard for something like [the stabbing] to happen nowadays. For example, when the top-ranked players walk to the outside courts from the locker rooms, they are escorted by several security guards also at the hotels, all of which we, the tournament, pay for. Everything is our responsibility while they are with us." Seles indicates she has not given much thought to how she might retire, when that day comes.