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Seles battles through tough times

June 26, 1997

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) _ Not so long ago, Monica Seles smiled through victory after victory and giggled her way through news conferences.

Now that tournament victories are rare, many of her answers are deliberately short and sharp, where once it was difficult to stop her from talking to the media.

Four years after being stabbed in the back by a spectator, and now with her father’s stomach cancer to worry about, Seles doesn’t giggle anymore.

``Obviously it’s a pretty tough time I’m going through right now, so I can’t say I’m in the happiest period in my life,″ the left-handed American said Wednesday after her 6-0, 6-2 victory over Australia’s Rachel McQuillan put her into the second round of Wimbledon.

``It’s a tough stage for for me right now, and I’ve just got to stick right through it.

``Obviously for me it’s really tough not to have my coach, who is my dad, here at the same time. That’s a little bit why my game is suffering, because of that. I know that, but I can’t think about that.

``I try to talk to him every day, or a couple of times a day. He seems OK.″

Something else might hamper her return to tournament-winning form.

Seles came back in 1995 from her two-year, post-stabbing layoff clearly not in shape, and she admits she may have a minor weight problem.

Asked if she was happy with her physical condition, the 23-year-old winner of nine Grand Slam titles, who hasn’t won any tournament since the Nichirei Open in Tokyo in September, replied: ``No, ideally, no.″

When she was asked again about her condition, she didn’t want to dwell on it.

``I didn’t say I didn’t want to talk about it. I just said `No, I don’t think I’m at the ideal physical shape I would like to be.‴

Even her comfortable first-round victory wasn’t as smooth as it seemed.

``It was tough because I was supposed to play Monday,″ she said. ``So I was here all day Monday and then I was expecting to play yesterday, so I was kind of surprised I didn’t play yesterday. Today, I was lucky to be first, but we’ve been waiting in the locker room.″

As rain fell for hour after hour, Seles and McQuillan had to wait until early evening before going out on Centre Court.

After losing only four points in the opening set, she reached match point at 5-2 in the second when it started raining again. When McQuillan produced a winning volley for deuce, the tournament referee halted the match and the players went off.

Seles, who came back 45 minutes later to clinch the victory, admitted she rushed the match to try and beat the rain.

``Definitely. But it was so slippery. That’s why I felt I’d better stop,″ she said.

The Seles of old, she admitted, wouldn’t have had to return.

``Each of the matches I lost last year, I had been leading 5-2 or 4-1 before I would just close them out,″ she said. ``This year or last year, really, I wasn’t feeling that.″

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