Father's tears capture the emotional crowning of Seles

 

A PROUD father's tears captured the emotional crowning of Monica Seles' comeback at the Australian Open on Saturday far more than her brilliant victory on centre court.

And her breaking down later at a news conference when questioned about the stabbing by a crazed Steffi Graf fan in Hamburg nearly three years ago brought home the trauma of her 28 months in the tennis wilderness.

The statistics show 22 year old Seles beat Germany's Anke Huber 6-4 6-1 in 78 minutes for a ninth grand slam title, fourth Australian Open title and a winner's cheque of $377,000.

But judging by the reception from an adoring Flinders Park crowd and Seles' own moving victory speech, the first grand slam title since her return to the game was more than special.

In the packed centre court crowd was a tearful father and coach Karolj and her mother Esther who have helped her through the dark years after her assault when she was on her way to becoming the greatest player of all time.

"I thank my coach who has been a major support for me while I was out, without him I would probably not be here today," Seles said looking up into the crowd after receiving her trophy.

Later at her news conference, the Yugoslav born American had a special word of gratitude to her mother. "It meant a lot that my mum came down, that was great support," she said.

The Australian Open was only Seles' fourth tournament since her return to tennis last August when she decided that she had finally put behind her the physical and psychological damage inflicted by her courtside attacker, Gunther Parche.

But it still lingers just below the surface and the bubbly champion, giggling and joking with the world's media after her triumph, was unable to continue when asked about whether she would ever play in Germany again.

Seles and the rest of the tennis world were horrified when Parche, who wanted Seles out of action to put Graf back at number one, was given a two year suspended sentence.

"It's very hard to go back and feel safe again," Seles said but faltered and lost her composure when asked further if it would complete her recovery to go back and play in Germany. I don't know. I mean whatever happened there has not been fair. I don't want to think about that."

Seles' one regret in her victory was the absence of old adversary and joint world number one Steffi Graf, absent after surgery on an injured foot.

"I definitely would have liked Steffi to be here," said Seles, who lost to Graf last September in an emotionally charged US Open final, her second comeback tournament, after winning the Canadian Open.

"But I think we'll play a lot of grand slams in the future . . . I think all our careers, we have: played some great ones and I'm sure we will play in the future.".

Seles' victory, her 32nd win in Australia to preserve a 100 per cent record, was all the more meritorious because she has nursed, niggling injuries throughout the tournament.