Monica by Monica Seles & My Aces, My Faults by Nick Bollettieri

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Excerpt from Monica: From Fear to Victory by Monica Seles with Nancy Ann Richardson, HarperCollins, NY, 1996
Excerpt from My Aces, My Faults by Nick Bollettieri & Dick Schapp, Avon Books, NY, 1997
Both out of print, but still readily obtainable used from Amazon.com.

    Monica by Monica Seles begins with the story of Monica being stabbed in the back by Gunther Parche (a crazed Steffi Graf fan) during a match in Hamburg in 1993, flashes back to describe her life in general, then tells of her 2 years away from tennis after the stabbing and her return to the sport to reach the 1995 US Open final and win the 1996 Australian Open singles title. The book includes some very nice photographs, match records, and documents from the Parche trial.
    On April 30, 1993, Monica was playing Magdalena Maleeva in the quarterfinals of the Citizen Cup in Hamburg, Germany. Parche had been following Monica for some time, upset because she had taken the # 1 ranking away from Steffi Graf. Parche was in the stands waiting for a chance to injure Monica, so that Steffi could regain the top ranking.
    Monica took the first set 6-4, and was leading 4-3 in the 2nd. During the usual break after odd-numbered games, Parche ran onto the court and stabbed Monica in the back with a 9" knife. The wound, 1 inches deep, just missed her spine. Monica was rushed to a hospital, and although there was a lot of bleeding, she suffered no serious internal damage. But the incident so terrified her that she was unable to return to tennis competition for over 2 years.
    Parche was tried for attemped murder. Although he confessed to his violent crime, he was sentenced to not to prison, but to just 2 years of probation, after he plead guilty to a charge of inflicting bodily injury.

    Monica, the book, is a bit vague at times, and the reconstructed dialogue seems a tad hokey, but Seles fans will like the book anyway, for the information as well as the 31 good photos it contains. Try to get one with a cover, the photo on the back might be the best portrait ever taken of Monica.
  click to see larger photo
Monica Seles, Anke Huber, and Mary Joe Fernandez visited a Melbourne night club after Monica defeated Anke in the 1996 Australian Open final, 6-4, 6-1. Photo from Monica.

    My Aces, My Faults, by Nick Bollettieri & Dick Schapp, is better written than Monica, benefiting from Dick Schapp's vast experience in coauthoring sports books. The book focuses on some of the biggest success stories from Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy at Bradenton, Florida: Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, and Boris Becker, to name a few.

    In the early 1960s, Bollettieri was the resident tennis pro at the municipal courts in Springfield, Ohio, when Dora Pasarell, mother of player Charles Pasarell, suggested he apply for a job as the pro at the Dorado Beach Resort in Puerto Rico. Dorado Beach was owned by THE Rockefeller family. Bollettieri wound up working in the summers as the "family pro" for the Rockefellers. At the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills, Bollettieri met Louis Marx, Jr., the son of the founder of the Marx Toy Company.

    In 1967, Green Bay Packer coach and Dorado Beach guest Vince Lombardi suggested that Bollettieri run a summer tennis camp at Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Bollettieri ran the camp for 25 years, developing techniques that would be used at his Bradenton academy. In 1978, Bollettieri decided to open a tennis school in Florida, offering room and board for the students. Louis Marx, Jr. offered to put up the $50,000 needed to buy an old motel on Manatee Avenue in Bradenton for the students to stay in, and the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy was born. Success led to rapid expansion, and in 1981 Louis Marx, Jr. put up $1 million (another million was borrowed from a bank) to make the NBTA the modern facility it is today. The Bollettieri Academy is now owned by International Management Group (IMG), the leading agency for pro tennis players.

    For more about Nick Bollettieri, see the excerpt from Tough Draw by Eliot Berry.

In 1986, 12-year-old Monica Seles came to stay at the Bollettieri Academy.
Two versions of that story, from these two books, are shown below.


Monica: From Fear to Victory
Chapters 7-8
(p. 30-56)


    ...The most amazing thing about the academy was that they had every type of court surface. You could literally play a few games on supreme court, then move outside to green clay or hard courts!...

    Zoltan [Monica's brother] moved into an academy apartment with me, and we fell into the rigid schedule of a tennis school. My brother began hitting with Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and David Wheaton. I worked with Zoltan, Nick, and the academy coaches... At first it was fun. There were a lot of kids, all from different parts of the US or abroad. Not all of us spoke the same language, but we could understand each other anyway. There were so many new things at that point--new coaches, tennis techniques, school classes--that I didn't have time to feel lonely. But once I sank into the schedule, I began to miss my parents. In addition, my game began to suffer.
    One of the first things the academy coaches did was to change my swing from a two-fisted to a one-handed forehand. The ground strokes my father had spent several years perfecting began to slide. I started to lose matches...
    ...I finally broke down and cried to my parents [who were still at their jobs in Yugoslavia]...
    "You come or I go," I said miserably...
    ...A few weeks later my parents arrived in Florida and moved into an apartment provided by the academy.
    "Monica, what has happened!" my father asked the first day he watched me practice. "Zoltan!" he yelled across the court to my brother. "What did you let them do to her?" My style, my tennis grip, my two-handed forehand and backhand were all changed. "What you are born with--that is how you play," my father fumed. I had picked up the racket with two hands, therefore, he believed, I was meant to hit that way. "I am coach again," he told the academy coaches. "I'll work with my daughter."

    In mid-March [1990] I went to play the Lipton Championship in Key Biscayne, Florida. Lipton is the fifth biggest tournament in the world. One match at a time, I told myself when I got into the tournament. Don't look at the draw, Monica, just focus on who you're playing at the moment. And I did . . . until the fourth round.
    Ros Fairbank. Ros, who'd beaten me in the first round of the Virginia Slims of Chicago, was my fourth-round opponent at Lipton. "Great, just when I thought I was on the upswing, I've got to play her again." When I'm nervous, I talk to myself. Sitting in the locker room before the match, I gave myself a lecture. "Give it a chance, Monica," I said. "You've had a few weeks of rest, your're playing good tennis. Just play your game and maybe the outcome will be better."
    I need to win this match for my sake, I thought as I stepped out onto the court. I need this one. Ros is a serve-and-volley player, and passing shots were an important part of beating her. That day I never lost control. I felt strong, unafraid, and played the game that I play in practice. I took Ros, 6-3, 6-4, in fairly easy sets.
    Whew, I was relieved! Beating Ros was just the shot of confidence I needed before playing my next match. I'd peeked at the draw and knew I would face Jennifer Capriati if she won her fourth-round match. It would have been our first encounter, but in the end it didn't happen at Lipton.
    Jennifer was upset by a French player and I beat Nathalie Tauziat in the semifinals, 6-3, 6-1, and Judith Wiesner, 6-1, 6-2, in an easy finals match. I had won Lipton! It was great to turn around my season. I'd done so poorly for the last three months, and I had really needed a big win to rebuild my confidence. My father and I went to San Antonio for another tournament. Once again, I won. We hopped on a plane back to Florida after the match. Both of us were excited by my game, and ready to focus on the next big match of the spring, the Italian Open.

    "What court can I take?" I asked the organizational director at the academy the morning after I returned. The man didn't answer me. "Is there a basket of balls out here I can use?"
    "We have no court for you," he finally replied.
    "Well, okay," I said. I was disappointed, because I needed a morning practice. "What time should I come back for a court?"
    "You can't get a court later, either," the coach explained.
    "Why?" my father interjected. At that point we were both confused, puzzled.
    "The coaches at the academy have been instructed that you can no longer have courts here," he told us.
    "What?!" my father and I said in unison. We tried to get to the bottom of the problem, but it was no use. No one would give us a straight answer. There was nothing for us to do, so we left the academy courts and went to look for a public court to practice on.
    Nick Bollettieri's way of sorting things out is through letters--always has been. A few days later we received a letter from Nick which said in effect: "Sorry our relationship ended this way, but I saw no reason for going forward . . ."
    No reason for going forward? To this day, I'm not certain why Nick kicked me out of the academy. Nick's treatment of me wasn't an anomaly. There are many other tennis players who have had similar experiences with him. Even Andre's relationship with Nick ended with letters. Still, I truly believe that Nick is a great human being in his heart. He gave scholarships to so many kids who loved tennis.

    My situation with Nick was more complicated than I understood at fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years of age. Nick didn't handle our relationship the way I would have hoped, but I will always be grateful for my academy scholarship...

 
My Aces, My Faults
Chapter 8: Grooming Monica
(p. 252-261)


    ...Early in her stay at the academy [in 1986, at age 12], Monica practiced out in the open on our showpiece front court, and she hit against Rafaella Reggi, Carling Bassett, and Lisa Bonder, young women six to eight years older than she, veterans of the professional tour. Monica wore them all out. She was the toughest twelve-year-old I'd ever seen. She had only one thing on her mind, and that was to be No. 1.
    From the beginning, Monica did not believe in keeping the ball in play. She did not believe in rallying. She believed in hitting winners. She tried to put every shot away. This helped her to become a great tennis player and a terrible hitting partner.
    Soon, Monica stopped hitting against girls. She hit against Agassi and Blackman, and wore them out, too. She beat up everybody...
    Poppa [Karolj] Seles was not a tolerant man. He was tough on all my pros. I once saw Jose Lambert crying like a baby; he said he had never been treated like such shit. Poppa Seles was extremely paranoid about Monica's training. Once, he demanded that I fire Rene Gomez for stealing Monica's drills, using the same drills with his own students. The truth is, he was. We had been using the same drills for years with all our students. I didn't fire Rene.
    What made Monica special was not the drills, it was the effort she put into them. She was tireless, persistent, dogged. She worked hard from the moment she stepped on the court. From the first ball to the last, she was always focused. She would hit the same shot over and over and over till she had it down. Not for an hour. Not for a day. For weeks. She would hit nothing but two-handed backhands for two or three weeks, followed by nothing but overheads for two or three weeks. She practiced for three or four hours at a stretch. She wouldn't leave the court until she had hit the perfect shot. She once went for more than a year without playing a single match. Monica spoke almost as rarely, but she listened. To her father and to me. And she hit. And hit. And hit. I couldn't have asked for a more dedicated student.
    Poppa Seles insisted that we move to a back court so that people would not steal his secrets and Monica's. He insisted that we put a fence and a canvas curtain around the court...
    Poppa Seles insisted that we buy a thirty-five-foot-long rope and hang it from the ceiling of the indoor center. He wanted Monica to exercise on the rope... The special sturdy rope cost more than $2,000, and when Greg Breunich couldn't get it installed quickly enough, Poppa Seles wanted to fire Greg. Monica never used the rope. Nor did anyone else. It still hangs from the ceiling of the indoor center.
    The Seleses were, by far, the most demanding family I ever worked with. Whatever we gave them--food, shelter, equipment, transportation, thousands of dollars worth of orthodontia for Monica, an operation for her mother--they wanted more...

    I put in hundreds of hours working with Monica, maybe thousands... I changed her backswing; she was using too much wrist, risking tendinitis. I changed her serve--the motion and the toss. I urged her to use a punch volley. I marveled at the two-handed forehand and backhand Poppa Seles had drilled into her...
    Monica's career skyrocketed. In 1988, after she turned fifteen, in only her second tournament as a professional, Monica beat Chris Evert in the final at Houston and won her first pro title. By the end of the year, she ranked sixth in the world. I kept offering her advice...
    [Before the 1990 Lipton International,] ...a few days before we left for Key Biscayne, Poppa Seles and Zoltan came into my office and said they wanted to have lunch with me. They said they had very important matters to discuss. We went to Steak & Shake, and as we were eating, Mr. Seles took out a yellow pad that had several pages of notes written in both black and red ink. He said he had a few questions for me, seventeen or eighteen of them, as I recall, including:

    How much time will you give to Monica?
   Will you take any other students besides Monica and Andre [Agassi]?
   Would you take care of Monica if anything happened to Poppa?
    How would you market Monica?

    Mr. Seles also talked about how I would be compensated for the years Monica had spent at the academy, for my work and my staff's. He said he would like me to reply immediately because he wanted to finalize an agreement before the start of the Lipton.
    I paid for the lunch. Zoltan had forgotten to bring money.
    That night I sat down and answered all the questions in detail, reaffirmed that I would coach only Monica and Andre, that I would divide my time and my efforts between them. I delivered my reply to the Seles family the next day and waited to hear from them. Not a word.

    We all went off to Key Biscayne and when I saw the draw and saw the way they were playing, I had a suspicion that both Andre and Monica would win. I was right. Andre beat Stefan Edberg in the men's final and Monica beat Judith Wiesner in the women's.
    Two champions! I couldn't have been happier. I raced back to Bradenton, and the next day Poppa Seles came into my office and told me to get Raul [Ordonez, an academy coach working with Monica at the time] ready to go to the next tournament. I asked Mr. Seles if he had read my answers to his questions. He said we would talk about it some other time. I pointed out that he was the one who had demanded my answers immediately, who had wanted to formalize our relationship so that there would be no misunderstanding. Mr. Seles said nothing.
    "Until you tell me where I stand," I said, "I'm not going to be helping Monica anymore. Nor is the academy."
    The Seleses moved out the next day.
    Monica said she wanted someplace quieter to practice. She said it was a great move for her career, for her game, for her health, and for herself. Funny, but I didn't notice that her career, her game, her health, or herself had suffered during her four years at the academy.


    Born on December 2, 1973 in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, Monica Seles has won 53 WTA Tour singles titles, including 9 Grand Slam tourney titles. The WTA reports her singles match record as 595 wins and 122 losses. She also has won 6 WTA doubles titles.
    In the spring of 2003 Monica left the WTA Tour due to a left foot injury that developed into a stress fracture. As of early 2005, Monica has been unable to recover sufficiently to return to WTA tournament play, although she has said that she would like to.

WTA Monica Seles player profile - ITF Monica Seles career match record

Bollettieri Academy website - interactive satellite photo of Bradenton centered on the Bollettieri Academy

Find more books by or about Monica Seles at Amazon.com - Find more books by or about Nick Bollettieri at Amazon.com



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