These days it hurts to look at the calendar and analyze the present dates. Weeks where Roland Garros it would have to be entertaining our afternoons, recovering that epic of the great events and transporting us to the past through each memory that the beaten earth evokes. And it is that Paris is a sacred place for tennis, a stage where we saw many racket artists consecrate themselves. Do you remember Monica Seles raising his first Grand Slam at just 16 years old? Three decades later, the Yugoslav-born American looked back in an interview with Daily Mail to rescue the reality of a girl who had to deal with a terribly early maturity. This was his story.
– 25 win streak before reaching Paris
“He had defeated Martina Navratilova in the final in Rome and then Steffi Graf, in front of her audience, in the final in Berlin. It was in those tournaments that I displayed my best tennis so far, even when I arrived in Paris I felt a slight concern that I had reached my highest level too soon. I was really nervous to start the tournament with so many expectations and the truth is that I did not play the best I knew there. The weather that year was not very good, the balls were heavy, I only performed at the desired level during the second week ”.
– Historical semifinal against Capriati, two years younger than her.
“We were two little girls under extraordinary pressure trying to solve that game and without many people to talk to. I remember that there was not a single empty seat in the stadium, I looked around and all the stands were full of celebrities. It was an exciting match, we both felt that way. It was a nice fight but very well studied before jumping onto the track, I knew which hitting patterns to use and which hitting patterns would give me trouble. What always happened every time Jennifer and I faced each other was that we always did our best, even if it was an exhibition match. They were always divided into three sets of three hours in duration ”.
– Number one in the final, Steffi Graf
“She was the favorite and I was the young woman. During the match, I felt that each point could make a difference, a little like it usually does now between those tough matches between Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic. I was very relieved when it was over, I knew it was worth all the effort. Even if I didn’t win again, I already had that great title with me, and no one would ask me again when I was going to win my first Grand Slam. It was amazing after all the pressure experienced those two weeks, after that I was able to sleep well for several nights ”.
– The consequences of success
“I really had no idea what was ahead of me, I just know that when I went out on the street, people would point at me and say, ‘That’s the girl!’ I was 16 years old and lived these situations 24 hours a day. At 17 I didn’t have many friends, in the world of tennis I didn’t talk to anyone and outside of tennis it was difficult to keep in touch. There was no internet either, just a phone you had at the hotel. I was a growing girl, my body was changing, I was suffering from teenage emotions, rebellions, happiness, depression, all at the same time. For things like this, most people generate a lot of pressure at these ages. ”
– The modern example of Cori Gauff
“I really liked it when I heard Coco talking about all this, reflecting on these issues at her age is very important. It was fantastic that he came out and told it that way, the pressure with these children right now is tremendous. Today I mentor young tennis players and other athletes, even people who do not play sports. I speak openly with them about the eating disorder I had, I think it’s good for them to hear what a superstar from the past felt at the time. Although maybe if I say it I will be treated a bit like a dinosaur, but if Coco says it it is different. In my case, I thought that if I talked about these issues when I was a girl, I would lose my competitive advantage on the track. ”
– Changes of time and learning
“The environment today is healthier, now the players are not so alone, they travel with large groups. With me only my father and a coach traveled, or a hitting partner. Luckily, now the player does not have to suffer in silence everything that I experienced, he does not have to endure that internal struggle for so long. I wish everything had gone slower, but that is not controlled. Yes, it is true that social networks make everything more complicated for young players, but it is definitely much better to be a child in this age. “