Only Seles' words disappoint Leand

July 19, 1991|By Josie Karp | Josie Karp,Evening Sun Staff

MAHWAH, N.J. -- Before she took the court against the No. 1 tennis player in the world, the reporter in Baltimore's Andrea Leand was unsatisfied.

"I really thought her whole press conference was unsubstantial," Leand said. "It answered one thing, that she is going to do what she wants to do."

About the only item of substance that came out of the event that attracted reporters from around the world to the sleepy town of Mahwah, N.J., site of the $150,000 Pathmark Tennis Classic, is the knowledge that Monica Seles has a Yorkshire terrier named Astro.

Leand, 27, who in addition to being a professional tennis player also writes for Tennis Week, and many others still had some questions about what exactly caused Seles' midseason hiatus even after the hour-long news conference.

Where had Monica been hiding?

"I never want to say that," answered Monica, 17.

Was it shin splints or a stress fracture that caused her to pull out of Wimbledon just days before it began?

"It wasn't actually totally shin splints," Monica said.

A while later in the news conference, she claimed, "It was totally shin splints."

See the confusion?

But while Monica's injuries and her whereabouts are still something of a mystery to fans and the media, only one person had the fortune (or misfortune) of answering the one question that hadn't been asked: Can Monica still play?

According to that one person, Leand, the answer is yes.

"I thought she performed better on the court than she did in the press conference," said Leand, a 6-0, 6-2 loser to Seles in second-round action last night.

Seles, who was to play Jessica Emmons of Los Angeles this afternoon, dominated the match from the outset. She allowed Leand just five points in the first set, winning all six games in just 16 minutes.

Seles did it without her trademark grunt, noticeably absent in the first set.

"Maybe that's what she did on her weeks off," Leand speculated.

Not so, said Seles.

"I think usually when I play an easy match I don't grunt," Seles said.

The grunt did reappear, although not as loud or as often as normal, in the second set when Leand finally came alive. She overcome a 30-40 deficit and broke Seles' serve in the first game.

Seles broke Leand in the second game, and then came back to beat her in the third game after being down 15-40.

Leand's last bright spot was an overhead smash that gave her game four.

Seles then won the next four games to take the match.

Not only did Seles appear to be back, according to Leand, she even appeared to be better than before.

"Her serve is definitely stronger," said Leand, who first faced Seles in Hamburg two months ago, with about the same success. "There's no question about that. She's stronger than the last time I played her."

From Hamburg -- "she absolutely killed me," Leand recalled -- Monica went on to win the French Open, her second Grand Slam tournament of the year.

That was before Wimbledon, before the world knew about Astro, when tennis was just a sport and not an event, when Mahwah was still Mahwah.

Yesterday, Leand was saying of the previously unheralded Pathmark Classic, "It's incredibly exciting. I've played tennis at tournaments for 10 years now and I've never seen anything like this. It's entertainment."

Leand isn't sure if that's bad or good.

"If she wants to wear wigs and have pictures of herself taken in limos and send them to magazines," Leand said, "then all the more power to her. Then it puts women's tennis in the magazines every day.

"But don't hurt the Women's Tennis Association," said Leand, who turned pro in February 1983. "Be professional."

Seles did not return calls to WTA officials Gerard Smith or Chris Evert during her time off from tennis.

"There's no question that there is a stigma attached to her now," Leand said. "I don't know what responsibility she feels to the WTA and the rest of the players. As the No. 1 player in the world, she has to take responsibility for that position, for the whole sport, for women's tennis."

For now, the mystery surrounding Monica Seles continues.

Will she play for Yugoslavia in the upcoming Federation Cup?

Can she win the U.S. Open?

And just what did Donald Trump have to do with all of this in the first place?

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