24 years ago today, the #1 woman in the world was sitting in her chair during a changeover when a man came onto the court and stabbed her from behind with a knife.
24 years later, it’s still hard to process the severity of the above sentence.
April 30, 1993 is one of the most tragic days in tennis history. 38-year-old Gunter Parche, described as a deranged Steffi Graf fan who was upset over Seles’ recent domination of her top German rival, stabbed Seles and narrowly missed her spinal cord and organs. He was subdued by officials and fans before being able to stab her again. Amazingly, only a few stitches were needed to treat the wound – but the harm done to Seles’ life and career was immeasurable.
Prior to the incident, Seles appeared to be headed toward GOAT-like numbers. Between January 1991 and February 1993, Seles reached the final in 33 of 34 tournaments she played, winning 22 of those titles. During this time, she went 55-1 in majors, winning 7 of 8 major titles. And all of this was accomplished before her 20th birthday. These numbers surpass anything we’ve seen from Serena, Federer, Nadal, or Djokovic at their peaks.
Following the stabbing, Seles would be absent from the court for over 2 years. In her 2009 autobiography, Seles detailed dealing with severe depression and an eating disorder. Her father’s cancer diagnosis later that year only added to her despair. Perhaps most upsetting was the dismissal of the attempted murder charge against Parche. The judge ruled Parche had diminished mental capacity, and he would serve no jail time. When a second judge upheld this verdict, Seles collapsed in tears in front of reporters.
Seles would never be the same player again, winning only 1 further major upon her return. The mental toughness and nerves of steel that had made her a dominating #1 in the world were gone. Her assailant’s mission was, horrifyingly, accomplished.
Seles had dominated her main rival, Steffi Graf, in the years prior to the attack. After herself winning 7 of 8 majors between 1988 and 1989, Graf would only win 1 major in each of the next 3 years. Within weeks of the attack, Graf would return to the #1 ranking. She would win the next 4 majors, with 11 of her 22 major titles coming after the stabbing, the third most all-time. We can only speculate how those numbers would differ had the stabbing never happened.
Has lessons been learnt?
24 years later, are players safer now? There’s certainly more security now at the bigger tournaments, with much tighter rules as to what is allowed on the grounds, but there’s also been several stunning security breaches in recent years. At the French Open in 2015, a young fan ran onto the court after Roger Federer’s second round win and walked alongside Federer for several seconds before being removed by security. Luckily this fan was looking to do nothing more offensive than take a selfie, but how is he able to make contact with Federer without being tackled?
Two years earlier in 2013, a much scarier incident occurred at Roland Garros during the men’s final between Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer. A masked, same-sex marriage protester ran onto the court with a flare in-hand, coming within a few feet of Nadal. The flare was left ablaze on the court for some time before being extinguished. Four years prior to that, a man entered the court during the 2009 French Open final and tried to physically force a hat and flag onto Roger Federer. Fans have also made it onto the court and made contact with players at the Australian and U.S. Opens.
Luckily these court crashers have not had the ill intentions of a Gunter Parche, but the next one might. The ease at which fans can get onto the court and to the players is frightening. In an effort to create a more intimate fan experience, many of the major tournaments have added new stadiums with more courtside seating (this year the Australian Open even added VIP seating on the court itself), but does this come at the expense of player safety? Let’s hope all tournaments take whatever measures necessary to prevent a recurrence of the awful incident from 24 years ago today.
REPORT: Madrid Open To Be Axed Amid COVID-19 Concerns In Latest Setback For Tennis
Hopes of Spain holding their top tennis event in 2020 are over.
The world of tennis is set to suffer another severe blow with multiple media sources confirming that organisers of Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament will officially cancel their event on Tuesday.
The Mutua Madrid Open will be removed from the 2020 calendar following a meeting involving tournament owner Iron Tiriac. Recently doubts have been cast on the event after local health officials called for it to be suspended due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Although the final decision was up to Tiriac and his team. It had been due to take place between September 12 to 20, following the conclusion of the US Open.
“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September,” tournament director Feliciano Lopez told L’Equipe over the weekend.
Spain has seen their rate of COVID-19 cases rapidly rise since the country ended its lockdown. According to El Pais, the number of cases recorded within 24 hours is eight times the amount compared to 40 days ago. Rising from 334 (June 20) to 2,789 (between July 29 and 30). On Friday July 31st there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.
Held at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open is a key event for both men and women. It is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. Last year each of the singles champions took home €1,202,520 in prize money. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.
The demise of Madrid this year is another setback for what is becoming a rapidly thinning 2020 tennis calendar. Within the past two weeks China has confirmed that they will not be hosting any tournaments this year, Japan’s scrapped it’s premier women’s event and the Italian Open has been advised to not allow any fans to their event this year.
As a result of the latest development, only two WTA clay-court events will take place after the US Open leading up to Roland Garros. They are both set to get underway on September 21st in Rome and Strasbourg. As for the men, Rome will be their only point of call.
Serena Williams leads a high-quality line-up in Lexington
Twenty-three time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams will be the top seed at the inaugural edition of the Lexington Open from 10th August 2020 on the same week as the Prague Open. The Lexington Open will be the first US tournament of the US hard court season, which will continue with the Western and Southern Open and the US Open, which will be held in the same venue at Flushing Meadows in New York.
Serena was very close to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, but lost four times in a Major final after giving birth to her daughter Olympia.
The US legend will play her first match since she hepled the US team beat Latvia in the Fed Cup last March in Everett. There Serena beat Jelena Ostapenko but she was defeated by Anastasija Sevastova.
Williams will lead a star-studded line-up, which features this year’s Australian Open finalist and former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, Aryna Sabalenka, Sloane Stephens, Johanna Konta, Amanda Anisimova and Yulia Putintseva, Ons Jabeur, Victoria Azarenka, Heather Watson and US rising star Cori Gauff.
Sabalenka won two consecutive editions of the Wuhan tournament in 2018 and 2019, in Shenzhen in 2019, the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai in 2019 and the Doha final in 2020.
Stephens won her first Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2017 and reached the final at 2018 Roland Garros. She finished runner-up to Elina Svitolina at the 2018 WTA Finals in Singapore. The US player lost to Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez in Monterrey in her last WTA Tour match before the pandemic.
Amanda Anisimova won her maiden WTA title in Bogotà in 2019 in her first professional tour tournament on clay. Last year the young US player beat Simona Halep en route to becoming the youngest semifinalist at the French Open since 2006. This year Amanda lost to Serena Williams in the semifinal in Auckland last January.
Johanna Konta reached the French Open semifinal and the Rome Final in 2019. The British player enjoyed her best year in 2017, when she won the Miami title and reached the Wimbledon semifinal rising to her best ranking at world number 4.
The Top seed Open will be the first WTA tournament to be played in the United States since the coronavirus pandemic swept across the United States. The Kentucky tournament will feature a 32-player singles draw and a 16-player doubles field.
Kremlin Cup Becomes Latest Tournament Thrown Into Uncertainty
Will there be tennis in Russia this year?
There could be a new blow to both the ATP and WTA Tour’s with officials admitting that the venue of Russia’s top tennis tournament is yet to be approved.
The Kremlin Cup in Moscow is one of three events to be currently included on the provisional WTA Calendar beyond the French Open along with Seoul, South Korea and Linz, Austria. This year’s 2020 tennis season has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic which has brought the sport to a standstill since March. Due to the virus all events set to take place in China later this year have been axed which includes the season-ending WTA Finals.
Shamil Tarpischev, who is the president of the Russian Tennis Federation, has said hopes of the Kremlin Cup taking place in 2020 depends on one venue in Moscow which he describes as the ‘only option.’ The tournament was held at the Olympic Stadium between 1990-2018, but it is currently going through a two-year renovation. Last year it took place at a temporary location at the Krylatskoye Ice Palace.
However, Tarpischev said the only place the tournament can be hosted in 2020 is at the CSKA track and field arena. The federation has already applied to use the venue but they are yet to get the necessary authorisation.
“CSKA is overcrowded, and therefore they have not given us an answer yet,” The Russian tennis chief told Tass news agency on Wednesday. “We are waiting for a decision in the near future, we sent all the letters. But this is our only option – there is nowhere else to play [VTB Kremlin Cup] this year.”
Should they get the green light, officials intend to hold the men’s and women’s tournaments separately instead of their original plan of a combined event. Tarpischev has said the ATP event will take place from October 19 to October 25. Although this is yet to be confirmed by the ATP, who have not published their calendar for events taking place after September. Meanwhile, the women’s event is set to take place during the first week of November (2-8).
The Kremlin Cup is currently classed as an ATP 250 event for the men and a Premier for the women. Andrey Rublev and Belinda Bencic are the reigning champions.
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