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Fame & Fortune: Monica Seles

Bankrate: Do you think your 30- to 35-pound weight gain was mostly due to stress, emotional problems, or what?

Monica Seles: I think a combination that you mentioned. When I would stress, I would turn to food. Food was my best friend; it was always there. If I was playing in Tokyo, at my home in Florida, or Australia, or wherever, there was always food and I could count on it. When I would go back to my hotel room, a lot of times I was lonely and I would just eat. And from the pressure of waking up every morning, of knowing I was going to win or lose the match. So I guess while I'm saying all this, it was my coping mechanism. It just showed that no matter how much you worked out, if you're not careful about your food intake and keeping your stress levels down, it's very hard to win that battle.

Bankrate: How do you think the 1993 attack on you altered your views on people?

Monica Seles: I think what happened to me has never happened in sports before, or since. It's one of those things you wonder why me? As a 19 year-old kid struggling with my own mind, body and waning independence from my parents and suddenly to have such a brutal thing at a place where I really felt safe, which was my office, it definitely altered my outlook on a lot of things. I took time away from the sport for two and a half years when I didn't play, and I wasn't sure if I would go back to school or what I wanted to do. It came back to me finally though that at the end of the day, I just love tennis.

Bankrate: Where did you find the strength to return to tennis?

Monica Seles: It was the love for the sport; I simply missed it. If you let one person change your life like that, it's not a good thing. I said, "You know what, this person was never in jail for stabbing me in front of 5,000 people in broad daylight." So many injustices happened but this is what I love so I picked up the racket. I mean, when I was 6 or 7 years old in Yugoslavia, it was a hobby for me. ... Sadly, that innocence in sports has been lost over the last 7 to 8 years.

Bankrate: In your book, "Getting a Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self," which took you the longest to get a grip on?

Monica Seles: Great question (laughs). I think the mind and body are so together. So for me, those two were really huge because they are so connected yet so separate. If you watched one of my matches, you'd see a very strong-willed tennis player. I had a laser focus on the tennis ball, no matter what. Yet if you saw me at the dinner table, you would see the total opposite. I couldn't figure out why I had such extremes in my personality.

Bankrate: Looking back, when you first turned pro, what was your first big splurge?

Monica Seles: My first big check was when I was 15 years old and beat Chris Evert in the finals of the Virginia Slims in April 1989. I remember that date because it was my first tournament win and I won $50,000. For me, I wanted a dog so badly because I always have loved animals, but my parents would always tell me I traveled too much. This time, I said, I'm 15 years old and I really want a dog, so I bought a little Yorkie named Astro. That dog traveled around the world with me and became my best friend.

Bankrate: What does financial security mean to you?

Monica Seles: It means I don't have to stress about money. Growing up, I'd see my mom working full time, come back home and cook us lunch, and go back to work … She worked for 36 years of her life and raised my brother and me. My dad had to work extra jobs, but we were lucky because he could work internationally so that helped us out. Still, tennis is very expensive, so my parents had to give up on a lot of luxuries to support my brother and my careers. When I started making money, my father always told me to put some aside because you never know what's going to happen. ... After I gained all that weight, every single sponsor except one left me within two months. I had to again earn it back.

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