On this day 30 years ago, Monica Seles became the youngest Grand Slam winner since Lottie Dod in 1887. At 16 years and 189 days, the prodigy claimed the French Open title at Roland Garros.
Here, we look at her remarkable achievement and what came next.
Born and raised in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia (now Serbia), Seles began playing tennis aged five under the guidance of her father Karolj. At the age of 11 she entered and won the Junior Orange Bowl tournament in Florida, catching the eye of coach Nick Bollettieri. She moved with her elder brother Zoltan to the United States to enrol at his academy and turned professional aged just 15. She was defeat by Steffi Graf at the semi-final stage of her first Grand Slam, the French Open, but would be back the following year.
A force to be reckoned with
Seles had already won six tour titles by the time she returned to Roland Garros, including five in the previous two months. She was seeded second for the tournament and set up a showpiece meeting with top-seed Graf by seeing off Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere in the quarter-final and another rising star – 14-year-old Jennifer Capriati – in straight sets in the last four.
With her talent on the court already well documented, Seles had the chance to show her mental strength on the biggest stage of her short career. She saved four set points in a tie-breaker for the opening stanza, eventually coming through against her more experienced opponent 7(8)-6(6). The second set was less tense, with the younger player sealing a 6-4 victory to land the the prize. She would retain the title for the next two editions, going on to add four Australian Opens and two US Opens. Only one of those came after the horrific on-court stabbing she suffered in 1993, which led to a two-year hiatus and the end of her growing dominance of the women’s game.
Usurped by youth
Youngest female Grand Slam winners
- Martina Hingis (16y, 117d)
- Monica Seles (16y, 189d)
- Tracey Austin (16y, 270d)
After seven years as the youngest slam champion in the Open era, Seles watched as Martin Hingis set a new record by winning the 1997 Australian Open at the age of just 16 years and three months. In doing so she not only claimed Seles’ place in the history books but also inherited her title, Seles having won in Melbourne the previous year.