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Monica Seles

More Pain

On New Year's in 1996, Seles learned that her father's stomach cancer had returned and the tumor had metastasized. For the next year and a half she was torn between playing tennis—which her father wanted her to do—and spending time with her father. His death in 1998 was hard on her. "He was everything to her," Wertheim writes, "… parent, best friend, architect of her game. Every act reminds her of his absence."

Her father's illness was reflected in her on-court appearance, and she had lost some of the form she had worked so hard to regain since her attack. After he passed away, in May of 1998, Seles got back on the court to avoid sinking too far into despair. "I was unsure whether I would be ready emotionally and probably tennis-wise," she said in Sports Stars. "It was just too tough for me to stay at home. It's so much better for me to be here. It's really tough.… My dad would love me to play. This is what I want to do for the next part of my life. I wish my dad could have seen the end of my career and a lot of other things."

Seles—wearing her father's wedding ring on a chain around her neck—defeated Martina Hingis in the semi-finals but eventually lost to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the final (7-6, 0-6, 6-2). But it was the first time Seles had been in a finals since 1993, and the taste of the competition and center court was what she needed to realize that tennis was truly something she loved.

The match in Paris became a turning point for her following the attack and her father's death. "I don't think the real Monica ever left," she said in Sports Stars. "I just think that when there's so many things going on outside your life, it's very difficult to go on a tennis court and be really excited about hitting a ball. Some weeks you can't even go to hit because you're just so sad about what's going on. I was able to concentrate on tennis, which was a very nice feeling. I haven't had it in a long time."

Home Alone

Before Monday's verdict, Seles' two-year absence from tennis had been blamed on her grievances about the way the court in Hamburg and the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) treated her immediately after the attack. The last time Seles granted extended interviews, 15 months ago, she spoke poignantly of being a talent derailed at 19. But the most forbidding obstacle to her return to tennis has always been the spectral possibility that Parche, or someone like him, would surface again—outside a store, through a window, across an airplane aisle.

That's the macabre fear Seles lives with. That's the unshakable anxiety that rears up unexpectedly and overtakes her. Everything will be fine for long stretches; Seles' tennis workouts and her determination to get back on tour may even peak. Then something—perhaps just sitting in a darkened movie theater—triggers a fresh rush of uneasiness. "Then she's thinking of the stabbing," says her father, Karolj Seles, "and she goes to pieces again."

Source: Johnette, Howard. Sports Illustrated (April 10, 1995)

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