Getting a Grip

I ran across this some time ago, and saved it as a reminder to buy the book for myself. Well I’ve bought it now, but I felt it was also worth sharing…

The following is an excerpt from Monica Seles’ book, “Getting a Grip”

[Originally posted at: FoxSports]

Top tennis players have two ways to approach dating while on tour. First, you can date someone on your team — a coach, a therapist, a trainer — but mixing business and pleasure can be hazardous to your playing health. Or you can date a guy who understands that he comes second, third or sometimes fourth on your list of priorities.
Monica Seles at Day 1 of the 2008 U.S. Open. ( Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

Enzo, a dashing Italian, fell under the second option. Whenever I was in Europe he tried to meet up with me to watch my matches and take me out to dinner.

I met him at a restaurant a few hours after my plane landed in Rome for the 2000 Italian Open.

Dressed in my usual flowy outfit to hide my weight, I felt a little bit glamorous. Who cared about a few extra pounds around the waist? Enzo looked good and smelt good. But when the antipasto arrived, my eyes darted from him to the dishes of meat and vegetables in olive oil. He spoke to the waiter and within moments a plate of salad was placed in front of me.

“Is this for me?” “Si, bella. I am under strict instructions not to let you indulge your appetite tonight.”

Strict instructions? The last time we’d gone out on the town he’d told me it was sexy that I loved food. But apparently he’d been given the nutritional smackdown by Chris, my “food warden.”

Pouring a minuscule refill of chianti into my wine glass, he said: “Let’s make an agreement. If you win the tournament, we will come back to this place and you will eat anything and everything you want.”


Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

That’s what I had been doing for seven years since I was 19. I was caught in the grip of a kind of madness, bouncing back and forth between the extremes of excess and deprivation.

Monica Seles at the 1991 Australian Open, where she won the single’s title. (Simon Bruty/Staff / Getty Images)

Every year I tried to get skinny again, as I’d been as a teenage player. I was an athlete.

I was working out every day. I had the best trainers and nutritionists. But I was still fat.

The bigger I got, the smaller I felt as a person. But I didn’t know how to stop the madness.

I tried every diet, every workout regimen, and consulted every top fitness expert, but nothing changed and I was convinced I was destined to be an unhappy person in a body that didn’t feel like my own.

Before this craziness began I’d been on top of the world. I’d shot to the front rank of tennis at a young age and the worst that had happened to me was the British press ribbing me for my loud grunting on court. I was ranked No 1 in women’s professional tennis at the age of 19.

And then, in an instant, it had all been taken away by a deranged fan with a knife.

It was Friday, April 30, 1993, a sunny day with a bracing chill in the air. I was in Hamburg for a warm-up tournament before the Paris Open, facing Magdalena Maleeva.

I was up 6-4, 4-3 in front of a crowd of 10,000 when we took a break. I remember sitting there, toweling off and thinking.

Just two more games. I can close this out quickly and go home to rest. I leant forward to take a sip of water; our time was almost up and my mouth was dry. Drink this down quickly, I thought.

Doctors later told me that if I hadn’t bent forward at that precise moment, there was a good chance I would have been paralyzed.

Seles grimaces in pain after being stabbed in the back by a spectator in April 1993. ( PA/AFP / Getty Images)

The cup had barely touched my lips when I felt a horrible pain in my back.

Reflexively, my head whipped around towards where it hurt and I saw a man wearing a baseball cap and a vicious sneer.

His arms were raised above his head and his hands were clutching a long knife.

He started to lunge at me again. I didn’t understand what was happening: for a few seconds I sat frozen in my chair as two people tackled him to the ground.

He had plunged the knife into my upper left back, millimetres away from my spine. I tumbled out of my chair and staggered a few steps forward before collapsing into the arms of a stranger who had run onto the court to help. My parents had stayed at the hotel that day — my dad hadn’t felt well — but Zoltan, my elder brother, was by my side in an instant.

The pain was worse than any I could have ever imagined. I heard people yelling for the paramedics. It was chaos. One thought raced around in my head: Why? During the ambulance ride, as I clutched my brother’s hand, shock shielded me from the realisation that my world was falling apart.


“Are you happy?” “No, of course I’m not happy.” An infomercial for a super-powered blender was on TV. My dad picked took the remote and turned the television off.

“What are you going to do about it?” “I don’t know.” “If you had to guess, what do you think would make you happy? College? Retiring? Starting something new?” “I have no idea. I really don’t.” “It’s okay. There is no pressure. Don’t go back to tennis unless it is for the right reasons. It’s just a game, it’s not your life. You don’t have to decide today or tomorrow or next year.” “I know,” I mumbled.

“Your only obligation is to do what makes you happy. It is that simple.” He was right. Financially, I didn’t have to set foot on a tennis court again. I could do whatever I wanted. Most people would love to be in that situation; why couldn’t I appreciate it? A few weeks later, I made a new year’s resolution. After 20 months of almost total seclusion I vowed to get out of the house more. I said yes to invitations. I learnt to water ski.

I suddenly knew what would make me happy. tennis had been my life’s passion and I still loved it. I’d already lost two years to depression and anxiety; I wasn’t ready to lose tennis too. That was what my attacker had wanted and I refused to give it to him.

Seles holds back emotions as she watches replays of her match against Martina Navratilova in July 1995. The match, which she won, was the first public match Seles played after being stabbed. ( AFP/AFP/ / Getty Images)

I made my comeback in an exhibition match against Martina Navratilova, who had been very supportive over the past two years. She’d made it clear that if I decided to come back on tour, I’d be welcomed by everyone. It was something I needed to hear, since I’d felt completely isolated and abandoned after the players’ vote on rankings.

A month later, surrounded by security guards, I won the Canadian Open. I was officially back. But I wasn’t the same person I’d been on the morning of April 30, 1993.

“That’s Monica Seles? What happened to her? She looks huge!” exclaimed someone within earshot of my family in the players’ box as I was winning the 1996 Australian Open.

I was still packing an extra 20lb and my loose shirt couldn’t hide the extra roll around my waist. My thighs were on full display for everyone’s judgment. I’d never played with that kind of self-consciousness, and I hated it. For the next few years I put myself through agonising patterns of behaviour in a futile attempt to reclaim my former self. I knew I used to be a happy person, but I remained stuck in my dark place, spinning on a wheel of quick fixes and extreme diets.

It’s amazing how the benefits of a sixhour workout can be destroyed during a 20-minute eating binge. I became very good at lying to my nutritionists and coaches.

I couldn’t be left alone for a minute. I couldn’t trust myself enough to be by myself.

[Read the rest of this post at: FoxSports]


About Rodibidably

Jeff Randall is a frequent volunteer for free-thought organizations, including the Center For Inquiry – DC. Having been blogging since January 2008, he decided that a community of bloggers would be an interesting new experience (or at the very least a fun way to annoy his friends into reading his posts more frequently). Since finding out about about the existence of, and then joining, the atheist/skeptic community in 2007 he has been committed to community activism, critical thinking in all aspects of life, science, reason, and a fostering a secular society.
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