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It’s all the same a decade later

London: Ten years after being stabbed by a deranged Steffi Graf fan in Hamburg, Monica Seles has decided to spend the anniversary away from the spotlight in her home in Florida.

The attack on April 30, 1993 has gone down as one of the most shocking incidents to have taken place in a sporting arena.

Playing against Bulgaria’s Magdalena Maleeva in the quarter finals in Hamburg, Seles was stabbed in the back during a changeover by Guenter Parche, who wanted to see Graf reclaim the top spot in the rankings.

The image of a shocked and sobbing Seles being helped off court with a towel held against her bleeding back not only stunned a global TV audience but effectively ended the carefree days enjoyed by tennis professionals.

In a recent interview, Seles, who was world No. 1 and only 19 at the time of the attack and had won eight Grand Slam titles between 1990-93, said she still felt that not enough was being done to protect women players at tournaments.

“You’re totally accessible. There’s no other sport in which you’re accessible as in tennis,” said the Yugoslav-born American, who spent almost two years away from tennis to recover from the attack.

In the aftermath of the incident, tournaments scrambled to increase security. While players used to sit on court with their backs to the crowd, the chairs were now turned to back the umpire’s chair. Security guards were placed in the area directly behind the athletes to monitor any suspicious behaviour.

Despite the measures introduced, Seles said: “It’s (the security’s) insufficient in a lot of ways, our accessibility to people to get us on site, in matches, after matches. It’s not just me, it’s any of the high-profile players.”

Visit any tournament, and what Seles describes still holds true. Fans can still mob players who are on their way to the courts, especially at the Grand Slam events.

During the last couple of years, there have been numerous occasions when the inadequate security arrangements have been highlighted. Serena Williams and Martina Hingis were stalked for months by men who followed them around the tennis circuit.

At last year’s Wimbledon, two men jumped on Centre Court to play a rally just after Seles had walked off court after her second-round victory over Rossana Neffa-De Los Rios. While it turned out the stunt was performed by two pranksters, it nevertheless brought back painful memories for Seles.

“There are certain things you cannot forget. That (the stabbing) changed the course of my career,” said Seles.

While Seles, who has not stepped foot in Germany since that fateful day 10 years ago, tries to deal with her emotions privately, one reminder of that frightening experience disappeared this year. After being staged for 16 years, the Hamburg tournament was wiped off the WTA’s 2003 calendar. (Reuters)

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