Originally created 01/04/01

Seles frightened by autograph seeker



PERTH, Australia -- Monica Seles, still frightened since being stabbed in the back by an obsessed fan in Germany in 1993, got another scare Wednesday.

This time, there were no injuries, only an autograph.

Seles was startled by an autograph seeker who approached her from behind at the Hopman Cup.

She was sitting courtside after her mixed-doubles match between the United States and Russia when a middle-aged man tapped her on the shoulder trying to get her signature.

Seles apparently was surprised by the man and immediately grabbed playing partner Jan-Michael Gambill, who escorted her from the area.

Security officials at the venue, the Burswood Dome, removed the man from the area, but no action was taken against him.

Tournament director Paul McNamee, a former player, would not comment on security at the event. McNamee said he had spoken to Seles and she had not complained about the incident.

He also said Seles had later signed the autograph for the man and had left the arena in good spirits.

Seles was not asked about the matter at her post-match news conference, and reporters apparently did not know about it at the time. She appeared relaxed, giggling occasionally while answering questions after the United States' victory.

Seles was the world's top-ranked player on April 30, 1993, and playing in a tournament in Hamburg, Germany. She was sitting courtside during a changeover when Guenter Parche - a deranged fan of Seles' rival Steffi Graf - reached over a railing and stuck a knife between her shoulder blades.

Seles missed 18 months of tennis and never has regained the No. 1 ranking.

Before the Hopman Cup, Seles said she still was bothered by the attack.

"I don't know how many tournaments I want to play this year," she said. "A lot of tournaments have moved to Germany and I'm not playing them. That is going to hurt my rankings a little."

The Hopman Cup is an exhibition with its own security rules and standards. Security has been tightened on the WTA Tour since Seles returned, with guards placed behind her chair and watching the crowd throughout the match.

Hopman organizers have a guard behind her chair, but there is no barrier between the crowd and the players. Fans have to walk on the edge of the court surface when they enter and exit the stands. The crowd Wednesday was a near-capacity 8,000.

The United States beat Russia 2-1 Wednesday, with Seles figuring in both victories. She won the first match, beating Elena Likhovtseva 6-3, 6-3. Seles then teamed with Gambill in the closing mixed doubles, downing Marat Safin and Likhovtseva 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Seles, who is preparing for the Australian Open beginning Jan. 15, next plays Thursday against Belgium.