Home Tennis Monica Seles and that stab that changed her life, a nightmare that the tennis world cannot erase

Monica Seles and that stab that changed her life, a nightmare that the tennis world cannot erase

by archysport

He was making history, of course. In 1993, the world watched how that little Serbian named Monica Seles he hit his two-handed drive and backhand and struck out rivals. It was number 1 in the world youngest in the history of women’s tennis, a milestone she reached at just 17 years old.

But on April 30, a devious stab went through his back and changed his life. Seles was never Seles again. And in the middle of her 48th birthday (she was born on December 2, 1973 in Novi Sad, former Yugoslavia), somewhere in her memory will have appeared that scene that she would never have imagined: being attacked by a madman on a tennis court, the place where she was happy.

A mentally deranged named Günter Parche, German and a fan of Steffi Graf, he could not stand that Seles was above his compatriot in the women’s world rankings. And stabbed him with a knife in the middle of a tournament match in Hamburg, perhaps in the most cunning attack on an athlete in a competition setting.

It was the quarterfinal clash of the German Open. Seles had been number one in the world for 178 weeks, and in front was the Bulgarian Madgalena Maleeva. The match passed with a 6-4 and 4-3 in favor of the number 1 in the world and the action took the players to their seats for the break between game and game. Until Günter Patch caused chaos and tragedy.

The Serb is taken to an ambulance, which takes her to a hospital in Hamburg. / Photo by TV REUTERS

Everything changed forever

The 38-year-old German walked over to the bench where Seles was resting and stabbed her in the back. The tennis player got up, touched her shoulder and after taking a couple of steps collapsed on the ground. The security members reduced the attacker, while the Serbian was treated on the brick dust.

He got it cheap, according to the medical report. The knife barely penetrated an inch and touched nothing but muscles. His lungs and shoulder blade were saved. An additional two inches would have rendered her paralyzed. But the injury had other consequences, perhaps more lasting: they were more psychological and emotional than physical.

The tennis world was shocked. And Monica would recall that moment years later: “It was a sunny afternoon in Hamburg, but somewhat cool. I went to rest waiting for the change of side. My brother Zoltan was in the stadium, since my parents had stayed at the hotel because Dad was not feeling well. “

Günter Parche, Seles' aggressor, is reduced by the security of the tournament.

Günter Parche, Seles’ aggressor, is reduced by the security of the tournament.

And he continues: “I began to move my legs during those 60 seconds of rest because I felt cold, when suddenly that cold entered my back in the form of a stitch. I did not know what was happening, until I saw a man in a blue cap who was holding a knife and he was trying to attack me again, until the security guards stopped him. I managed to walk a couple of steps until I fell … “

A friend named Sabatini

Seles was transferred to a hospital and it was announced at that time that she would be out of the circuit for three months. Finally it was more than two years until he was able to return. But already nothing would be like before.

Before the attack, the young woman of just 20 years old, number one since she was 17, already had won eight Grand Slam and he had become the great threat of Graf, who until his arrival dominated to his liking in women’s tennis, with the opposition of Gabriela Sabatini.

Players Monica Seles and Gabriela Sabatini speak to the media during a press conference at Essex House on March 9, 2015 in New York City.  Mike Stobe / Getty Images / AFP

Players Monica Seles and Gabriela Sabatini speak to the media during a press conference at Essex House on March 9, 2015 in New York City. Mike Stobe / Getty Images / AFP

It was precisely at that moment that Gaby had a gesture that praised her as a person and an athlete: she was the only tennis player who refrained from having the number 1 of the Serbian WTA ranking taken away from her, while she was out of the circuit.

And Seles remembers it very well in an interview with the Tennis magazine: “I remember that Gaby was the only one who voted to have my ranking frozen. And I really appreciate it. Number 1 comes and goes, you will have better contracts, but what you have inside you, most importantly, that does not change. She cared about me as a person and forgot about fame, career and money. “

A complicated return

After returning to the circuit, Seles won 21 more titles, including the 1996 Australian Open. And always dealing with overweight problems, caused by anxiety attacks and depression, which he began to have after the fateful day.

“Fries were my downfall, after being a tennis champion I became a potato eating champion. Food was my only therapy, ”he once recalled.

On August 17, 1997, Monica Seles holds up the Canadian Open trophy after defeating Anke Huber of Germany, 6-3, 6-4 to win the Canadian Open, in Toronto.  Photo by Mike Blake REUTERS

On August 17, 1997, Monica Seles holds up the Canadian Open trophy after defeating Anke Huber of Germany, 6-3, 6-4 to win the Canadian Open, in Toronto. Photo by Mike Blake REUTERS

It is that the life of the Serb had blows of those that leave marks. Being just a teenager and enduring the pressures of being on top of the tennis world has its costs. She tried to cope with her father’s support Karolj, who helped him since she was a child but who -after the attack that her daughter suffered in Hamburg- lived the drama of cancer that would lead to death five years later.

He reminds them: “I had grown up on the tennis court. That’s where I felt safest, safest, and that day in Hamburg everything was taken from me. My innocence, my number 1, my income, my endorsements. Everything was canceled. And the only person who could make me feel better, who would understand what that meant to me, was my father, “he added.

The karma of your eating disorder

The psychological consequences left by the attack by an alienated German, the death of her father and the pressure from a young age were stronger. This he confessed in an interview in the newspaper ‘Daily Mail’, in which he assures that being so young “they did not know very well what I was facing.”

“When I went out into the street everyone pointed to me, said ‘that’s the girl’. I was 16 years old, and I spent 24 hours like that. After defeating Martina Navratilova in Rome and later Steffi Graf in Berlin, I was aware of that I had never played so well. When I arrived in Paris I thought that perhaps I had emerged too early “.

Michael Chang and Monica Seles, when they were inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI, on Saturday, July 12, 2008. (AP Photo / Elise Amendola)

Michael Chang and Monica Seles, when they were inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI, on Saturday, July 12, 2008. (AP Photo / Elise Amendola)

Seles reminds them of the isolation in which she lived for years, focused only on her training sessions and her games, and traveling non-stop. Before the incident, he assures that he hardly had any friends. “In tennis no one talked to the others. And outside, how could you keep in touch? There was no Internet, I only had the hotel phone. Socially I had problems. “

He affirms that the weight of expectations was very great. Before suffering the attack, she confesses that she was also fighting against herself. “I was a growing girl, my body was changing, I had teenage emotions, rebellion, happiness, depression …“.

The Serbian returned to the slopes thanks to her fierce determination and discipline, but by then she had already been dragging a eating disorder that made him choke on food in the wee hours of the morning. “My mother and father did their best, but I know how difficult it was not to have someone to talk to. I thought if I ever got over this as a sane person, I would be there to talk. be quiet”.

Monica Seles lives in the United States and is a counselor for young tennis players, athletes from other disciplines or people not linked to sports. “With them I talk openly about the disorder I had,” he says, applauding the step forward that the young tennis player took Coco Gauff, who has acknowledged having been on the verge of giving up everything due to a depression, for not having known how to manage his meteoric rise.

“It’s good for them to hear that their current superstar has felt it. When it’s someone of their generation who says it is very important. I used to feel that if I talked about it, I would lose advantage as a competitor, and I don’t think it ever looks that way. plus”.

HS

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