Fame & Fortune: Monica Seles

Monica Seles It didn't take the world long to see the potential that Monica Seles would have on the tennis world. A young girl from Yugoslavia, Seles was ranked No. 1 in the world for girls under 18 when she was just 13. It was at this time she was invited to attend the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida, where her family soon moved so she could pursue her career. In 1990, Seles became the youngest woman to win the French Open and continued on her winning streak, earning eight Grand Slam titles before she turned 20.

In 1993, Seles was still dominating women's tennis, until it all came screeching to a halt. While in a Hamburg, Germany, competing in a quarter-final match, she was brutally stabbed in the back by a deranged fan. Depression, headaches and nightmares followed this bizarre, terrifying event, and she lost her No. 1 ranking and many powerful sponsorships.

Still competitive, she appeared on "Dancing With the Stars" in 2008 and became a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. Her new book, "Getting a Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self," is an honest look back on her highest highs and lowest lows. Here's what she said when Bankrate caught up with her recently:

Bankrate: You have experienced big accomplishments in your own life. What do you consider your first major accomplishment?

Monica Seles: Probably when I won my first Grand Slam title, which was 1990's French Open. I was 16 years old, and everyone kept telling me I was a great tennis player. But until I actually did it, I believed in myself that I could compete with the best players in the entire world.

Bankrate: You actually played tennis on concrete back in Yugoslavia. So did you come from humble beginnings?

Monica Seles: Well, I came from a normal background because both my parents worked. But we lived in a city where they had only four tennis courts, and at that time, tennis was a very elitist sport. You could only play in a white outfit, much like what goes on at Wimbledon. And they said no kids under age 10 were allowed on tennis courts. My dad played tennis, but unfortunately we were not allowed to play together. He felt it just wasn't right and said, "My daughter wants to play tennis, so we'll make this happen." He put a string between two cars in the parking lot and that was our tennis court.

Bankrate: How did you envision your life changing as a result of mastering this sport?

Monica Seles: I turned professional at age 15. I kind of knew I was good at this sport, but to me, it was just still really fun. I never imagined it would be my career -- how I would make a living and get all this fame. Probably when I was 16 or 17, I realized that even if I cut my hair, it was big news. I realized that this could be my career as long as I wanted it to be, and that's why I'm so thankful for my parents who never put any pressure on me.


Bankrate: What has proven to be the greatest single personal challenge in your life?

Monica Seles: I think (being) in my own brain. It's just been coming out and winning the battle against my fluctuating weight. Just figuring out a plan that worked for me and living life, living life more than worry about what I would, or wouldn't, eat. A whole new life opened up for me after nine years of a lot of darkness and my emotions based upon that. I had to do that by myself and I'm very proud that I was able to come out on top. That was from 1994 to 2003.

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