Monika Seleš is a former Yugoslav and later American tennis player. She was born in Novi Sad in 1973. Her early tennis development was supported by her father Karolj, but also by the famous Jelena Genčić, who had a special flair for recognizing future tennis stars and working with them dedicatedly (besides Monika, she worked with Goran Ivanišević and Novak Djoković). This enormous tennis talent is nurtured with extreme care because it is really rarely seen. Monica is still considered one of the best tennis players among women in the history of this sport.

Monika’s tennis path was very interesting but also specific. She won her first tournament at the age of 9, not even knowing all the rules of tennis. Her playing style was very specific. Since she started playing tennis as a very young girl, it was easier for her to hold the racket with both hands, so she hit both forehand and backhand with two hands. She had extremely strong shots and an excellent return, which somewhere marked her as the first “power play” tennis player in the history of women’s tennis.

At the age of 11, in 1984, she won a prestigious tournament in the USA, when the famous coach Nick Bollettieri noticed her and invited her to train in his tennis academy. She started her professional career at the age of 14, and a year later she won her first WTA tournament, defeating the famous Chris Evert in the final. She won her first Grand Slam title in 1990, at the Roland Garros, when she was only  16 years old. That’s why she was followed by the name “miracle child”.

After that, the huge rise of her career begins. From January 1991 to February 1993, her dominance was terrifying. In that period, she won 7 Grand Slam titles, and in addition, out of 34 tournaments she played in, she was in the finals in 33. That girl was unstoppable back then. Her exceptional rivalry with Steffi Graf is known, who, until Monika appeared in tournaments, was extremely dominant on the courts. Monica came out of those duels more often as the winner, except on the grass surface of Wimbledon. It remained, until the end, the only Grand Slam tournament that she did not win.

That rivalry with Graf, which was extremely important for tennis itself, cost her career. At the tournament in Hamburg, in April 1993, an obsessive fan of Steffi Graf, during a break between games, came out of the audience and stabbed Monika between her shoulder blades. That extremely unusual event was the first stumbling block in Monica’s career. After that event, she was never the same tennis player again. Physically, she recovered quite quickly, but mentally, it followed her until the end of her career. Monica was known to be extremely mentally stable on the field, but an event like this would upset anyone. Monika returned to the tour in August 1995. In the following year, she won another grand slam, and that was it. She was never the same Little Mo again.

Ever since she came to Nick’s academy, the Americans have been recruiting her to take their citizenship, but as Monika herself says, it was difficult for her to do that, because she always felt like a Yugoslav inside herself. She accepted citizenship in 1994, after her beloved Yugoslavia fell apart, but in her heart, she remained a Yugoslav forever. As a naturalized American, she won the Fed Cup with the national team in 1996 and 2000, as well as a bronze medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Her statement is known that she could not play for the American national team in 1999, while NATO bombs were falling on her beloved hometown of Novi Sad.

The best player of those most important points, valuable titles, officially retired from tennis in 2008, mostly due to frequent injuries. Now she leads a quiet life away from the public eye. In the history of women’s tennis, she will certainly be remembered as one of the greatest players ever.

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