Monica Seles Getting a Grip
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Monica Seles Getting a Grip

Getting a grip on My Body, My Mind, My Self chronicles Monica’s success on the tennis circuit, where, at age sixteen, she became the youngest winner in French Open.

books Updated: Apr 15, 2009 16:13 IST

Monica Seles, who will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island on July 11, will be releasing her new book next week. For many it is hard to believe that the glamorous and spectacularly fit former tennis champion once struggled with binge eating and depression.

Getting a grip on My Body, My Mind, My Self chronicles Monica’s success on the tennis circuit, where, at age sixteen, she became the youngest winner in French Open history. For three years she dominated the tour, racking up Grand Slam titles and charming the media at post-match press conferences with her trademark giggle.

Thrown into a fast-paced, competitive world of tennis at an early age, Monica was one of the youngest and brightest tennis stars. Initially leaving her family behind in Yugoslavia, she struggled to fit in at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida where players such as Andre Agassi and Jim Courier were the reigning stars. But her rise as a tennis phenomenon was fast, culminating with that 1990 French Open victory. Monica then went on to win a total of nine Grand Slams before she was 20. Her father (and coach) was always by her side keeping her grounded and focused.

But Monica’s fame came at a price. In 1993, at the height of her career and seemingly unstoppable, she was brutally stabbed by a deranged Steffi Graf fan while playing in Hamburg, Germany. Her injuries healed but the emotional trauma ran deep. Too injured to play, she lost her No. 1 ranking and lucrative sponsorships. After the German courts let the attacker off without jail time, and a lost appeal, her despair deepened.

During this time, she turned to food for comfort. While overeating temporarily numbed the pain, it took a tremendous toll on her mind and her body. For years she battled against herself—grueling six-hour workouts were sabotaged by secretive late night eating binges—and she was assaulted with criticism about her weight from her trainers, nutritionists, her boyfriends, and the press.

Yet, her determination was fierce. In 1996, she mounted a comeback culminated with a win at the Australian Open. It was to be her last Grand Slam title. Shortly thereafter, her beloved father and lifelong tennis coach died from stomach cancer, and Monica again, began binging.

She continued to compete on the tennis circuit, however, encountering a new generation of “power” players like Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Martina Hingis, and Lindsay Davenport who were dominating the tour. While on the road, the more she ate, the harder she worked out, creating a vicious and self-defeating cycle. Struggling with younger, more nimble and aggressive players, Monica needed to come to terms with a changing tennis world and her changing priorities. For the first time, she started taking control of her own life.

In 2008, Monica officially retired from tennis and embarked upon a new life. She is currently working with numerous charities and speaking to women around the world. She is building a new, happier image both inside and out. She has new hobbies like scuba diving and photography and is seeing the world in a way she was never able to while playing tennis. But to her millions of fans, she will always be that amazing power tennis player who put everything--including that famous grunt--into every shot.

Monica’s story is one that will resonate with women and tennis fans alike. Her determination, amazing talent, and touching vulnerability, make her story both incredibly human and inspiring. Poignantly honest, Getting a Grip reminds us all to be true to ourselves and to find the strength within.

First Published: Apr 15, 2009 15:45 IST