Martina Navratilova tells espnW that the 1993 stabbing of Monica Seles, then 19, robbed her of the confidence that had already paved the way to eight Slam titles in a span of just three years. That’s an incredible rate and considering just how dominant she was not only against the WTA (from January 1991 to February 1993 she made the finals of 33 of 34 tournaments, winning 22 of them) but also over her chief rival and the woman many consider to be the greatest player in the modern era, Steffi Graf.
“Mentally she was just so tough, she was right up there with Chris [Evert],” Navratilova said. “You couldn’t crack her, you never got the feeling she was panicked or pissed off. Nothing. You could not read her body language. Up 6-4, 4-0 or down 6-4, 4-0, she was immaculate, and she lost a little bit of that, not hardness, but supreme confidence. … She lost her edge.”
Seles won just one more Grand Slam after the stabbing, the 1996 Australian Open. Nine Slam titles is nothing to sniff at, but what could have been, or perhaps what should have been lingers.
“She would have won so much more,” Navratilova said. “We’d be talking about Monica with the most Grand Slam titles [ahead of] Margaret Court or Steffi Graf. Steffi had 22 [Navratilova and Evert have 18 apiece], but she didn’t have anyone to play against. This guy [Guenther Parche, who stabbed Seles] changed the course of tennis history, no doubt about that.”
Mary Jo Fernandez agreed.
“People forget, if you look at [Seles'] record, she has nine Grand Slams, which is an amazing career,” Fernandez said. “But she would have had double that at least. … She took our game to another level.”
“The sad thing about the whole thing to me,” Pam Shriver said, “was that besides the physical and emotional harm that was done to Monica, one of our great champions, is that this guy, in the end, got exactly what he wanted.”