Sat, Jan 17, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Monica Seles heads 2009 Tennis Hall of Fame class

TWO-TONE GRUNTS Seles, who first rose to No. 1 at age 17, will be inducted along with Andres Gimeno, ATP co-founder Donald Dell and the late Robert Johnson

AP , NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

Monica Seles returns a shot against Chanda Rubin in the final of the Hong Kong Ladies Challenge in Hong Kong on Jan. 4, 2003. Seles was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, honored for a career in which she won nine Grand Slam singles titles.

PHOTO: AP

Monica Seles was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, honored for a career in which she won nine Grand Slam singles titles and returned to the tour after being stabbed while playing a match.

“It was just a lot of highs and a lot of lows,” Seles said on Thursday during a conference call. “One of the things that always kept me going was my love of the game.”

Also elected were 1972 French Open champion Andres Gimeno, ATP co-founder Donald Dell, and the late Robert Johnson, who pioneered the integration of tennis.

They will be inducted on July 11.

Known for her two-tone grunts and two-handed swings off both sides, Seles won 53 singles titles, including four at the Australian Open, three at the French Open and two at the US Open.

When she first rose to No. 1 in 1991, she was 17, at the time the youngest woman to have topped the rankings. By the time she was 19, Seles already had won eight major championships.

But in April 1993, at the height of her success, she was attacked by a man who climbed out of the stands at a tournament in Hamburg, Germany.

Seles returned to the game 27 months later and immediately reached the 1995 US Open final. Her final Grand Slam title then came at the 1996 Australian Open; she would go on to reach two more major finals.

Seles said she does not dwell on how her career might have fared had the stabbing not happened.

“I try not to ask myself those questions because there are really no answers to it,” she said.

Hampered by a left foot injury, she played her last match at the 2003 French Open at age 29. Thinking she might try to come back at some point, Seles waited until last year to officially announce her retirement.

Born in what was then Yugoslavia, Seles moved to the US when she was 13 to work at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. She became a US citizen in 1994 and helped the US win three Fed Cups. She also won an Olympic bronze medal in 2000.

At 16, she became the youngest French Open champion in history, beating No. 1 Steffi Graf. She called her first major victory the greatest of her career.

“As a 16-year-old, everybody says, ‘Oh, you’re going to be great, blah, blah, blah,’” she said. “Until you actually do it, you don’t believe it.”

Gimeno, elected in the masters player category, still holds the record for being the oldest French Open champion: The Spaniard was two months shy of 35 when he won at Roland Garros.

He also was the runner-up to Rod Laver at the Australian Open in 1969 — Laver would go on to win all four Grand Slam titles that year — and reached a career-best ranking of No. 9.

Dell and Johnson were both chosen in the contributor category.

As a player, Dell was on the US Davis Cup team in the early 1960s. As a nonplaying captain, he led the country to Davis Cup championships in 1968 and 1969.

His biggest impact on tennis, though, came in marketing and business: He was the first person to manage tennis players’ careers, served as the ATP’s first general counsel for eight years and was a founder of Washington’s Legg Mason Tennis Classic.

Johnson, who lived from 1899 to 1971, was credited with helping launch the careers of Grand Slam title winners Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson.

“It was Johnson’s vision and innovative groundwork that gave Gibson and Ashe — and all future black champions — the training ground and road map to succeed,” the Hall said in its announcement of the inductees.

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