Seles confirms she won't play in D.C. Slims Tournament left without top 3 player

August 20, 1991|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- When Monica Seles looks back at the summer of 1991, she'll find she was noted most for the tournaments that she didn't play.

Seles -- who missed Wimbledon because of shin splints -- yesterday said she would not be playing in the Virginia Slims of Washington, two days after tournament officials received word that she would and inserted her as the top seed.

According to Seles, the mishap started when a hotel operator apparently misinterpreted her message to the director of the Women's Tennis Association. The 17-year-old Yugoslav, who would have received $50,000 as a late fill-in for injured Steffi Graff, said she never intended to play because she didn't want to play four straight weeks going into the U.S. Open.

But Josh Ripple, director of the Washington tournament, said he heard as early as Friday that Seles would possibly be playing in Washington.

"On Friday Monica looked bright, which surprised everybody," Ripple said. "Saturday she looked even brighter, and that night she sent a message that she wanted to play Washington. The next day, she sees the seed and says she never had any intention of playing."

Seles said she "almost fainted" when she saw her name as the top seed in Washington, but said Sunday she would consider playing. But yesterday afternoon it was announced that she would be a no-show.

Why would Seles leave hope that playing in Washington was possible?

"That's a good question," Ripple said. "I think that if Monica felt she was going to play four weeks in a row, she should have said that immediately."

The mix-up with Seles leaves the Slims, a Tier Two tournament, without any of the top three players in the world. Because a Tier Two event requires the participation of one of the top three players, the WTA must pay the tournament promoter $35,000.

Gerard Smith, executive director and CEO of the WTA, apologized for the mix-up.

"The WTA apologizes to . . . the fans at the Virginia Slims of Washington for any inconvenience and disappointment this may have caused," Smith said. "A miscommunication occurred, which in no way reflect upon Monica Seles. The WTA will carefully review its procedures for accepting tournament entries and withdrawals in an effort to ensure that incidents of this nature will not recur."

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