The Monica mystique.
Is Sarasota's tennis superstar Monica Seles the girl next door, a Madonna-in-training or something all her own?
Except for Macaulay Culkin Macaulay Carson Culkin (born August 26 1980) is an American actor. He is best known for portraying Kevin McCallister in Home Alone and the title character of Richie Rich. , who's getting something like $7 million for Home Alone II, and Shannen Doherty Shannen Maria Doherty (born April 12, 1971) is an American actress and television director, perhaps best known for her work as Heather Duke in Heathers, as Brenda Walsh in Beverly Hills, 90210 and as Prue Halliwell in Charmed. , whose work day consists of nuzzling TV heartthrob Luke Perry Luke Perry (born Coy Luther Perry III on October 11, 1966) is an American actor best known for his role as Dylan Michael McKay in the TV series Beverly Hills, 90210. on Beverly Hills Beverly Hills, city (1990 pop. 31,971), Los Angeles co., S Calif., completely surrounded by the city of Los Angeles; inc. 1914. The largely residential city is home to many motion-picture and television personalities. 90210, is there any young person in America who's having more fun and taking a bigger bite out Verb 1. bite out - utter; "She bit out a curse"
let loose, let out, utter, emit - express audibly; utter sounds (not necessarily words); "She let out a big heavy sigh"; "He uttered strange sounds that nobody could understand" of life than Sarasota's teen tennis sensation, Monica Seles?
To get an idea just how big a bite, let's open her 1991 scrapbook A Macintosh disk file that holds frequently used text and graphics objects, such as a company letterhead. Contrast with "clipboard," which is reserved memory that holds data only for the current session. . Here's Monica being photographed by Vogue photographers, who spent three days in Sarasota. Here's Monica hobnobbing with Prince Albert Prince Albert, city (1991 pop. 34,181), central Sask., Canada, on the North Saskatchewan River. Prince Albert is a commercial and distribution center for a lumbering, gold- and uranium-mining, and mixed-farming area. There are wood-products and meatpacking industries. of Monaco and with Kim Basinger's main squeeze main squeeze
One's primary romantic partner or sweetheart. , Alec Baldwin Alexander Rae "Alec" Baldwin III (born April 3, 1958) is an Emmy- and Academy Award-nominated, and Golden Globe Award-winning, American actor. He is the eldest of the Baldwin brothers, and has starred in many movies and TV shows such as "30 Rock". . Here's Monica running up an outrageous tab at Emilio Pucci's Manhattan salon. Here's Monica taking acting lessons and saying, "I was born for L.A. I give myself three years and I'm there." Oh, and here are some of those nasty stories from last summer when Monica was on the lam from Wimbledon, allegedly due to "shin splints Shin Splints Definition
Shin splints refer to the sharp pains that occur down the front of the lower leg. They are a common complaint, particularly among runners and other athletes. ," and the English press had such a coronary over the No. 1 seed bailing out on the world's No. 1 tournament that they started the rumor that Monica was pregnant with Donald Trump's baby -- just because she was holed up, Garbo-style, at Trump Manor in Palm Beach. And last but certainly not least, here are those get-back photos that the Seles family took of Monica emerging from a limousine in a Patty Hearst fright wig fright wig
A wig with hair, especially long or frizzy hair, standing up from the surface. designed to fool the pursuing press hounds -- staged photos, which were leaked to the press, as if to say, "Hey, what's all the fuss? There's another Wimbledon next year." Shortly afterward, Monica signed with No Excuses jeans.
And all this at the tender age of 18! What's going on What's Going On is a record by American soul singer Marvin Gaye. Released on May 21, 1971 (see 1971 in music), What's Going On reflected the beginning of a new trend in soul music. here?
Well, to begin with, Monica Seles has an irrepressible personality and, despite the Twelve Days of Silence Following Wimbledon, she has a history of being incredibly open with the press. ("She's like a breath of fresh air," says Joey Johnston Joey Johnston (born March 3, 1949 in Peterborough, Ontario) is a retired a Canadian ice hockey forward.
Johnston started his National Hockey League career with the Minnesota North Stars in 1968. He would also play for the California Golden Seals and Chicago Blackhawks. of the Tampa Tribune. "She's a legitimate star, yet wonderful to be around.") Sure, her idol is Madonna and sometimes she acts like it, but at least she admits it. ("When I wake up in the morning, I'm not always sure who I'm going to be that day," says Seles of her public personae. "But I'm not going to get caught up in having the right image for anything or anybody.") And then there's that thing she does in between fashion shoots and jeans commercials: tennis, a sport where this coltish colt·ish
1. Relating to or suggestive of a colt.
2. Lively and playful; frisky.
coltish·ly adv. , 5'10", 130-pound cutie cut·ie also cut·ey
n. pl. cut·ies also cut·eys Informal
A cute person. can crush a ball harder than perhaps anyone alive, male or female.
If that last part sounds like press agent hype, consider the following anecdote told to Sports Illustrated's Curry Kirkpatrick by Jim Courier James Spencer "Jim" Courier, Jr. (born August 17 1970, in Sanford, Florida) is a former world number one professional tennis player from the United States. During his ATP career, he won four Grand Slam singles titles – two at the French Open and two at the Australian Open. , who is currently the No. 1 male tennis player in the world and who was once a cohort of Seles' at Nick Bollettieri's tennis academy in Bradenton.
"Nick ordered me to hit with Monica one day," said Courier. "First ball -- whap! -- she smacks a winner. Next -- whap! -- winner. I said, 'Okay, I'm impressed. You can play. Now let's practice.' Uh-uh. Whap, whap, whap! After 15 minutes I walked off. I told Nick, never again. He could get another guinea pig guinea pig (gĭn`ē), domesticated form of the cavy, Cavia porcellus, a South American rodent. It is unrelated to the pig; the name may refer to its shrill squeal. ."
Martina Navratilova Noun 1. Martina Navratilova - United States tennis player (born in Czechoslovakia) who won nine Wimbledon women's singles championships (born in 1956)
Navratilova knows how Courier felt. Whapped into submission by Seles 6-1, 6-1 in the finals of the 1990 Italian Open Italian Open may refer to:
And that's the way most of Seles' opponents felt during her incredible '91 season. Check out this linescore: 16 tournaments entered, 16 finals reached; 10 championships; three Grand Slam grand slam
1. The winning of all the tricks during the play of one hand in bridge and other whist-derived card games.
2. Sports The winning of all the major or specified events, especially on a professional circuit. titles in three tries; match record: 74-6; prize money: a record $2,457,758.
When Seles opened the 1992 season by winning the Australian Open -- her fifth Grand Slam victory in nine tries, better than any player in history -- her position as the No. 1 tennis player in the world was beyond question. Not just the No. 1 female tennis player, mind you, because that was already a foregone conclusion. But in terms of star power and earning potential, no less an authority than Forbes magazine says that Seles tops the tennis list, ranking above even Sweden's Stefan Edberg and Germany's Boris Becker. In addition to that $2.5 million in on-court prize money, Forbes estimates that Seles made roughly $6 million last year in appearances and endorsements for clients such as Perrier, Canon and Fila. She was the only woman in the top 15 of Forbes' top 40 highest-paid athletes, a list headed by boxers Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson and basketball superstar Michael Jordan.
So impressive was Seles in '91 that now there's even talk of her squaring off against tennis' grand old man, 39-year-old Jimmy Connors, in Battle of the Sexes III. If you can remember as far back as 1973, back to the Dark Ages of Women's Tennis, Battle of the Sexes II matched Billie Jean King Noun 1. Billie Jean King - United States woman tennis player (born in 1943)
Billie Jean Moffitt King, King , the avowed a·vow
tr.v. a·vowed, a·vow·ing, a·vows
1. To acknowledge openly, boldly, and unashamedly; confess: avow guilt. See Synonyms at acknowledge.
2. To state positively. feminist and women's tennis standard-bearer, against former U.S. tennis star Bobby Riggs, an avowed chauvinist chau·vin·ism
1. Militant devotion to and glorification of one's country; fanatical patriotism.
2. Prejudiced belief in the superiority of one's own gender, group, or kind: "the chauvinism . . . and standard-bearer for decrepit de·crep·it
Weakened, worn out, impaired, or broken down by old age, illness, or hard use. See Synonyms at weak.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin d old men in need of Geritol at every changeover. BJ won the match 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, thereby avenging Riggs' earlier victory over Margaret Court in Sexes I. The audience for King-Riggs numbered more than 30,000 in the Houston Astrodome as·tro·dome
A transparent dome on the top of an aircraft, through which celestial observations are made for navigation.
Noun 1. and some 50 million people in TV land.
If the Seles-Connors match comes off, it will be sometime this spring in -- where else? -- Las Vegas. "Jimmy's interested; there have been talks," says Jimbo's mother-advisor, Gloria. Seles sounds like she's all for it, too.
"We both grunt!" says Seles. "And he's still playing at a very high level; it would be very tough."
Who is this young woman a) who wants to take on the greatest competitor the men's game has every known, b) whose millions are being used to build a lavish new home for her family at Laurel Oak Country Club, and c) whose image fluctuates in helter-skelter fashion between the excesses of Madonna and the All-American wholesomeness of Debbie Gibson?
The first time I heard Monica Seles' name was back in 1989 when I was working on a piece about that noted merchant of tennis, Nick Bollettieri, for SARASOTA magazine.
At the time, Andre Agassi was Bollettieri's main meal ticket. Pictures of them were plastered all over Nick's office: Andre and Nick strolling down Park Avenue, Andre and Nick sunning themselves in exotic locales, Andre and Nick rakin' in the dough.
"Sure, Andre's good," one of Bollettieri's instructors told me. "But wait till you see this kid Nick's brought over from Yugoslavia, Monica Seles. She's the one."
At the time, Seles and her family -- father, Karolj, an award-winning cartoonist and documentary film maker; mother Esther, a former computer programmer; and brother, Zoltan, an accomplished junior player in Europe (and now her full-time advisor) -- lived in a simple apartment near the Bollettieri complex. Very few people from the outside world were familiar with Seles' lethal groundstrokes, her incredible mental energy or her family's single-minded dedication to getting her to the top. And that's the way Bollettieri wanted it.
Seles was just 12 years old when she came to America. Back then, she spelled her first name Monika. She had long, straight brown hair and she had grown up in an ethnic Hungarian household in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. As a child, she loved to dance and tried out for all the school plays. To keep tennis fun when his daughter was young, Seles's dad would set some of her dolls around the court. She was rewarded when she knocked them over. And even then, every time she hit the ball, Seles accentuated that expenditure of energy with a squeal that could break glass.
In the early days at Bollettieri's, Seles practiced under sequestered se·ques·ter
v. se·ques·tered, se·ques·ter·ing, se·ques·ters
1. To cause to withdraw into seclusion.
2. To remove or set apart; segregate. See Synonyms at isolate.
3. conditions -- shortly after dawn when nobody else at the academy was awake and generally behind screened-in fences, like some prize racehorse racehorse
refers usually to thoroughbred but may also include standardbred, trotter. being groomed for a match race.
As it has turned out, Seles is running that race without the man who, along with her father, trained her throughout her early teens. In the spring of 1990, Seles and her family cut the cord with Bollettieri and moved to The Meadows. There was bitterness on both sides. She charged that Bollettieri had done nothing during her practice sessions but work on his tan; Bollettieri, who has framed pictures of himself getting a tan, countered by saying that he was not only Seles' coach, but the family's landlord and sugar daddy as well -- to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars in indebtedness.
"When I first started covering Monica, the family had moved to The Meadows and she was a lot more accessible to the press," says Mic Huber of the Sarasota Herald -- Tribune. "She used to answer the door herself, and I'd see her running around the subdivision practicing for her driver's test in a red BMW BMW
in full Bayerische Motoren Werke AG
German automaker. Founded as an aircraft engine manufacturer in 1916, the company assumed the name Bayerische Motoren Werke and became known for its high-speed motorcycles in the 1920s. . And she'd always return my phone calls. The day it was announced that she was No. 1 in the world for the first time I went over to her house, but her brother said she was sleeping. I told him I needed to talk to her, went home and when I walked in my phone was ringing. It was Monica."
Joey Johnston of the Tampa Tribune is so taken with Seles that he admits to doing something journalists don't normally do -- shouldn't do, in fact, in keeping with the codes of impartiality: He bought her a present.
"I gave her an Easter bunny; I think she said it was the 151st in her collection," says Johnston. "It was the first and last time I'll ever buy an athlete a present, but she had treated the press so nice during a tournament in Tampa that I just wanted to say thank you."
Seles' stuffed animal collection is a reminder that she and most of her compatriots on the women's tour are still awfully young women. And whom amongst us isn't a bundle of contradictions at that age? It's just that Monica Seles is a bigger bundle than most. When she was 10 years old, she used to steal into her mother's lingerie drawer and put on every black lacy thing she could find. When she was caught in the act of trying to be a grownup too soon, her mother would plead, "MOAN-ika, MOAN-ika...please...wait until you are at least 17."
It's easy to forget these polished players are still wavering between girlhood and maturity. Example A: Having been No. 1 for more than two months, Seles cried on the shoulder of Florida's other teen tennis sensation, Jennifer Capriati, after losing the '91 Italian Open final to Gabriela Sabatini. The victory gave Sabatini a chance to wrest wrest
tr.v. wrest·ed, wrest·ing, wrests
1. To obtain by or as if by pulling with violent twisting movements: wrested the book out of his hands; wrested the islands from the settlers. the No. 1 ranking away from Seles, provided she could make it to the finals of a tournament in Berlin. But on the night before the crucial match -- which also happened to be Sabatini's 21st birthday -- she danced the night away and lost the next day to No. 22-ranked Anke Huber.
It has been pointed out that Seles' rapid rise to the top -- she was ranked No. 88 in 1988 -- was partially obscured by her fellow Florida teen sensation, Capriati, who was winning hearts all over the world while Seles was winning matches.
So who would the press rather cover -- Capriati or Seles? Compared to Capriati, Monica is more outgoing, has more to say and "will talk about anything," says Johnston. "She's the fastest talker I've ever heard. She never uses a period and the official stenographer An individual who records court proceedings either in shorthand or through the use of a paper-punching device.
A court stenographer is an officer of the court and is generally considered to be a state or public official. at the U.S. Open had a separate machine just for her."
Before Wimbledon, most writers and members of the tennis world seemed to have nothing but admiration for Seles. "Monica's the first one of the new breed to show the responsibility to the game that a top player should have," Chris Evert had said. "Her ascendancy has been distinguished by total professionalism on and off the court," wrote SI's Kirkpatrick.
But after her strange pullout pull·out
1. A withdrawal, especially of troops.
2. Change from a dive to level flight. Used of an aircraft.
3. An object designed to be pulled out.
Noun 1. and subsequent disappearance, many seemed to feel almost betrayed and rushed to denounce her.
Mic Huber doesn't think that's fair; he says he blames Seles' family for the Wimbledon snub. "Her family doesn't think in conventional ways," says Huber. "They either gave her real bad advice -- or they're absolute geniuses, because they got her more publicity than any tennis player in history."
That's putting it mildly. When Seles appeared at an exhibition in Mahwah, N.J., 27 days after withdrawing from Wimbledon, more than 200 members of the press showed up. What they found out was that Seles wasn't pregnant, but she also didn't seem that contrite con·trite
1. Feeling regret and sorrow for one's sins or offenses; penitent.
2. Arising from or expressing contrition: contrite words. about leaving the All England Club in the lurch. At one point during the press conference, Seles held up a T-shirt with the words Rome, Paris, Wimbledon and Mahwah on it; Wimbledon was crossed out with tape.
SI's Sally Jenkins called it "the silliest performance of the year by a major athlete." But, to be fair, Seles has, on other occasions, been extremely apologetic about Wimbledon.
"I never planned it to happen like that, I swear," she has said. "That was a tough time. I was hurt and some people were telling me to get injections and some were saying you've got to play because it's Wimbledon. It was just too much for me."
The question of who Seles really is -- Madonna or Debbie Gibson? -- really misses the point. In a culture that idolizes media "personalities," Monica Seles seems to be gamely managing to be something else -- a person.
Consider two pre-Wimbledon incidents. The first took place in Boca Raton, Fla., where the Women's Tennis Association was holding a workshop for players under 18. Technically, every WTA WTA Washington Trails Association
WTA Women's Tennis Association
WTA World Transhumanist Association
WTA Willingness to Accept
WTA Winner Takes All
WTA World Toilet Association (Singapore) player is supposed to attend at least one day of these how-to-survive-on-the-tour lectures, but none of the marquee players show up. But on this day, Seles did -- along with 75 nobodies. "I thought she was there to speak, not be a student," recalls WTA publicist Ana Leaird. But Seles was there to do just that. She scribbled in her notebook, asked questions and then took the WTA quiz. "I was stunned," says Leaird, who notes that Seles is so down-to-earth she also makes her family's airplane reservations herself.
Incident No. 2 was related to Joey Johnston by the late tennis historian and longtime friend of the game, Ted Tinling. It happened at the 1988 Virginia Slims of New Orleans.
"It was election time," says Johnston, "and the Lloyd Bentsen-Dan Quayle vice-presidential debate was on TV in the players' lounge. Of course, none of the players was paying any attention to it; they were giggling and acting like typical teen-agers -- except for Monica, whose eyes were glued to the TV. When someone asked her if she were really interested in politics, Monica replied, 'Oh, yes, I wouldn't miss this for the world.'"
Marty Rauch Jr., Monica's Sarasota-based agent, says he knows exactly who Monica Seles is. "Monica is just a delightful person," he says, and he goes on to tell this story.
"She was practicing at The Meadows one day around Christmas," says Rauch, "and a man came up and asked her if she'd mind signing a tennis ball. He was very sheepish sheep·ish
1. Embarrassed, as by consciousness of a fault: a sheepish grin.
2. Meek or stupid.
sheep about asking, but he told Monica that he wanted to put the ball in his son's Christmas stocking. Monica smiled, then signed the racquet she was using and gave it to the man. That's the kind of person she is."
Kent Hannon is a former staff writer at Sports Illustrated and a special contributor to Sports Illustrated For Kids. He lives in Athens, Ga.