4 minute read

Monica Seles

Rises Fast

From October 3, 1990, to March 18, 1992, Seles made it to the finals of 21 straight tournaments. Graf was still ranked number one in the world, but it seemed that the next great rivalry was in the works (people had loved watching Evert and Navratilova fight over number one in the early eighties). Seles took the Australian Open in 1991, once more making her mark as the youngest victor at a tournament. She repeated the event in Paris at the French Open, then in March ended Steffi Graf's streak of 188 weeks at number one, setting yet another record by becoming the youngest player, male or female, to hold the world number one ranking.


1973 Born December 2, 1973, in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, to Ester and Karoly Seles
1980 Begins playing tennis; plays in first tournament in the spring and wins
1982 Ranked no. 1 junior player in Yugoslavia
1985 Wins the Orange Bowl in Miami, meets coach Nick Bollettieri and moves to Florida from Yugoslavia to train
1987 Ranked no. 1 junior player in the world
1988 Competes in the Virginia Slims tournament in Boca Raton, Florida (competes as an amateur)
1989 Turns professional at the age of 15
1989 Wins her first professional tournament at the Virginia Slims in Houston in April
1990 Wins her first Grand Slam event—the French Open
1991 Becomes youngest tennis professional tennis player in history to be ranked no. 1 in the world
1991 Wins the French Open, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open
1992 Withdraws from Wimbledon due to shin splints
1992 Wins the French Open, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open
1993 Wins Australian Open
1993 Stabbed in the back on April 30th in the quarterfinals of the Citizen Cup in Hamburg, Germany (she will be away from tennis for almost two years)
1994 Becomes a naturalized U.S. Citizen
1995 Makes her comeback on July 29 and rejoins WTA in August
1995-96 Named to Federation Cup Team
1996 Releases book "From Fear to Victory" in June 1996
1996 Member of U.S. Olympic Tennis Team
1996 Publishes her autobiography, Monica: From Fear to Victory
1996 Wins the Australian Open
1997 Wins her 40th title in August
1998 Wins the Tokyo Princess Cup with Anna Kournikova
1998-2000 Again named to Federation Cup Team
2000 Member of U.S. Olympic Tennis Team
2001 Ends season with a thirteen-match winning streak

Awards and Accomplishments

1985 Yugoslavian Sportswoman of the Year
1989 Tennis Magazine/Rolex Watch Female Rookie of the Year
1990 Rado Topspin Award for overall sportsmanship and dedication to the game
1990 Sanex WTATour Most Improved Player
1991 Sanex WTA Tour Player of the Year; voted ITF Women's World Champion
1991 Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year
1992 Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year
1992 Sanex WTA Tour Player of the Year; voted ITF Women's World Champion
1995 Tennis Magazine Comeback Player of the Year
1995 Sanex WTA Tour Comeback Player of the Year Award
1998 Sanex WTA Tour Comeback Player of the Year Award
1998 Named Female Pro Athlete of the Year by the Florida Sports Hall of Fame
1999 Named Family Circle Cup Player Who Makes a Difference
1999 Awarded the "Commitment to Community" Award by the Florida Times-Union
2000 Named Player of the Decade by ESPN at the ESPY Awards
2000 Named to Forbes magazine's Power 100 in Fame and Fortune list at no. 66 (no other female athletes made the list)
2000 Receives the Flo Hyman Memorial Award from the Women's Sports Foundation

1991 was the year in which fans thought they'd see Seles do what only six other players in tennis history have done: win the Grand Slam (the Australian and French Opens, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open) in one year. Seles, however, mysteriously pulled out of Wimbledon, citing illness as the cause. The media rumor-mill started to churn, and there was speculation that she might be pregnant. Seles didn't give the press an answer they wanted, simply asking them, "What if I am?" (She wasn't.)

She returned to the U.S. Open later in the season and defeated Navratilova, who by then was twice Seles's age. The final was not Seles's toughest, but the first set looked as if Navratilova might win one more Grand Slam against the young phenom. After Seles won a grueling first set 7-6, however, she came back to easily win the second set 6-1.

As 1992 wound to a close, it appeared that Seles would reign as the queen of Women's Tennis for years to come. She was only 18, had already won a handful of Grand Slams, and had a number one ranking. She had just finished a season in which she won the Australian Open, and then faced Graf in one of the fiercest French Opens in history. The match saw the tide turn several times, and Seles won the first set 6-2, then lost the second 6-3. By the third set, Seles had flirted with defeat numerous times, but in the end came back and won 10-8, taking the match in what was the "hardest I've ever had to work for a Grand Slam title," she said in Sports Stars.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsTennisMonica Seles Biography - Growing Up, Trip To America, Young And Professional, Rises Fast, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments - CONTACT INFORMATION, SELECTED WRITINGS BY SELES: