Comeback Stories – Monica Seles

Jun 9, 2020

A true overcomer understands the severity of the circumstances they’ve had to push through but chooses to persevere regardless. 

As I’ve researched some of the greatest sports legends in history, this theme has stood out, especially among the athletes who have had extenuating circumstances turn their careers upside down. Monica Seles is one such athlete. 

Born in Yugoslavia in 1973, Seles started playing tennis at five years old. In 1989, she began playing professionally and became the youngest athlete to win the French Open at the age of sixteen. In the four years after that she went on to win eight Grand Slam titles, an incredible feat for such a young athlete. As her career progressed, she became a household name and seemed to be establishing herself as the greatest female tennis player of the time. 

However, in 1993 after a Citizen Cup match, a crazed fan of her rival, Steffi Graf, rushed onto the court and stabbed her in the back. Seles was rushed to the hospital where she spent weeks recovering. 

Overall, it would be two years before she fully returned to tennis. During that time, she was forced to cope with both the physical and emotional scarring the incident caused. 

In describing her recovery period, Seles later said, “You have to admit pain or that you have a problem with something. It’s part of any recovery. First you have to admit you aren’t a rock, then you wouldn’t be a human being.”

Instead of focusing on what could have been in the two years she was forced to sit out from the sport, Seles focused on the road ahead and finally began competing again in 1996. 

Upon her return, she went on to win the Australian Open and consistently remained in the top ten through the early 2000s. 

While her career was undoubtedly set back after the stabbing, she made the most of her difficult situation and established a lasting legacy for herself nonetheless. 

Main Takeaway: Focusing on the past and the obstacles we have had to face will only keep us from realizing the true potential that lies ahead. In order to be truly great, we have to accept the past (both good and bad) and resolve to make the future even better.

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