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Sunday, March 11, 2007

me, the Selesophile

many things surprise people after they initially know me....one of those things is my inclination towards the sport of tennis.


Very few people know about my inclination to sports but the few who do...they're almost amazed at how I can recite some of the statistics, oh well I'm never gonna be some walking World Sports Almanac who knows the very first tournament Yevgeny Kafelnikov won and how many seeded players he beat that time but hey! I bet you don't know that too! HAHAHAHAHA...


MY selective memory makes me focus on my favorite sportswoman evarrr and that is Yugoslav early 90's teenage sensation, Monica Seles. She is my sportingicon, a woman of great spirit and athleticism. She did what she could to change tennis and the world learned to embrace her after a certain point whereshe seemed to be under attack by the media from all sides....








Nothing about the Serbo-Hungarian native looked remarkable. She looked like any lanky teener, slim, long legs and the wild untamed hair most girls have.But in the tennis court she was a different animal. She struck the ball with both hands on her racket on both sides, forehand and backhand. Although this limited her movement and reach she more than made up for it with the power and precision of her groundstrokes. Her shots painted lines all the time. She had great disguise on her strokes and she could attack the second serve like no one in the past could. The Seles attacking game is the template of all kinds of offensive tennis we see today among the Williams sisters, Sharapova, and many other new ones. Attack your opponent's serve and go for your shots.




As if Seles' game was not enough to make her the center of attention, her uncanny moans with each stroke was a facet of her game. SHe screeched withevery shot. It sounded like the agonized scream of someone who uses a lot of strength. The moan was a cross between a stuck animal and a rambling train so the tabloids used to say during her heyday.

A few years after winning her first tournament in Houston against no less than Chris Evert, Seles rose to the number one ranking and cemented her domination by winning 8 of the 11 Grand Slams she joined from April or May of 1991 to January 1993. This was unheard of and to have accomplished by someone so young! She was feared by the best competitors of the game like Graf, Navratilova, Sabatini, Sanchez-Vicario and many others.





Although her stabbing in 1993 by a deranged German was probably one the greatest headlines of her career, she will be remembered for bringing a different aspect to the game and that was her attacking play and never-say-die attitude.



I will always remember Seles for her victories over her great nemesis, Fraulein Forehand Steffi GRaf. Steffi had dethroned Navratilova as the queen of tennisdom in the late 80's and 1990 but in came this noisy kid with an attitude who could hit the ball with such velocity. Seles stormed the scene and crashed in on GRaf's parade. Graf could answer all of Seles' fierce shots but had no replies to her grit and tenacity in the important matches. The French Open final in 1992 between the two has been considered the greatest women's match of the 20th century by a famous tennis publication. The last set took more than two hours of spectacular tactical play and exhausting rallies betweenthe two athletes. Seles was tired and exhausted by the time she shook a teary-eyed Graf at the end of the battle , winning it 10-8 in the end.



I can only say that Seles is indeed a champion of incredible stature whether she loses or wins. Nowhere have I seen an athlete who can pull herself from the jaws of defeat or exhaustion and manage to win a match but at the same time crush an opponent in a matter of an hour. What is remarkable about her is how she used all her strengths and disregarded her weaknesses to become the great champion that she is. This is the mark of a true athlete and this is why I love her and consider her as the greatest tennis player of all time....


(Note: Thanks to
www.monicaselessite.com for letting me borrow their photos! I appreciate it Ronny and James!)

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