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Table of contents
But I also got to experience it thankfully on the same side of the net when in Rome we won our only doubles title together. I wish we played more. Her force of will on a blistering day in Melbourne in , when she found herself a set and down in the finals of the Australian Open facing another great champion, Martina Hingis , she would fight off four match points to win her final Grand Slam title.
As powerful as her groundstrokes were, it was her fight that was her greatest weapon. No matter what challenges were thrown Jennifer's way, she fought, she fought and she fought. More than her incredible records, more than the power game she helped pave the way for, that's her true legacy. It earned her more titles and fans than anything else. You are a friend, a great champion, and someone who inspired me as a great rival, an adversary on the court. I have always admired you for your relentless determination, your fight, and most importantly your character as a person.
You truly are a class act and I'm honored to be introduced by you. I wasn't sure if it would ever come and if I would have the chance to take my place on center court again. It's been eight years too long. Honestly, I never thought I would get this opportunity to be back at a place where I have spent all my life, a place where I grew up, transformed and defined myself through. I've spent my life either being on a tennis court or missing the tennis court. It's humbling, it's gratifying, and it makes me so incredibly proud to be here today, celebrating this moment with you all.
I left the game earlier than expected, earlier than I wanted to, and because of this I was not able to leave the game on my terms. I was not able to thank everyone who had such a positive impact on my life. I knew this honor would provide me with the platform to give thanks to those people, those who helped me, loved me, believed in me, supported me, and ultimately inspired me.
I knew I would be able to pay tribute to a game I love and always think about. I would also be able to acknowledge and embrace what my blood, sweat, tears, determination and heart has brought me. I would be able to remember who I am again and give myself a voice again. I dreamed of tennis as a little girl. I dreamed of being the best.
I have to say I achieved all my dreams and more. Even though my life took some twists and turns I didn't expect, I still managed to overcome adversity, win Grand Slams, pocket a gold medal, become No.
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I'm still learning. He eventually stood trial on a charge of wounding rather than attempted murder, and though he admitted the attack had been premeditated he escaped a prison sentence after psychological reports. Later I tried to sue the German Tennis Federation for lack of security and lost income, and I lost those cases, too.
It was hard to cope with the fact that the guy was not even sent to prison.
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It did not feel like justice to me. Every time Seles tried to walk on a tennis court, as her injuries healed, she found she couldn't face it and turned around. My innocence. My rankings, all my income, endorsements - they were all cancelled.
And the one person who could have comforted me really, who understood what it meant, my father, was of course facing this awful illness. Seles started eating.
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She had always enjoyed her food, never had to be told to clear her plate as a child, and now she did that, and more so. There were so many ifs. In the end though, after two and a half years, I felt I just had to try. I came back in Toronto and the fans' support was just amazing. I won that first tournament back, and that helped. It was like: 'I am still pretty good at this.
In some ways though, her problems were only starting. She had worked hard to get into shape for that tournament, but even then she was nothing like the weight she had been at It was then she started to hear the voices. What happened to Seles? Did you see how big she was? I had been out of the game for two years. My father was extremely sick. I was no longer a teenager. I turned to food for comfort. What did they expect? In some ways Seles was prepared for the scrutiny. She had suffered some of it before the stabbing, particularly on one occasion when she had cut her hair into a new style as part of an endorsement deal for a haircare company.
I'd never met her and she said: 'What happened to you - you look like a boy, you look terrible! The new hair had coincided with the controversy surrounding her "grunting" as she hit the ball on court. Things had come to a head at Wimbledon in , when the papers made a controversy about the noise she made and the players started to complain - notably Martina Navratilova, who lost to Seles in the semi-final. But going into that tournament I had lost one match all year.
I think it was a purely a mental tactic, by Martina and others. You always look for something. With me I didn't have a crazy father, I didn't have a crazy personal life, there was just this grunting, so they went for that.
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Seles believes the controversy got to her. I grew up a lot that day. And I decided never again would I listen to what people say. If they made grunting against the rules, then I would have to think about it, but otherwise I would do whatever helped me to play my best. Some of those doubts went through Seles's mind again when she heard people commenting about her weight on her return to the game, but she tried to banish them. It was not easy. But when Anna Kournikova came along, there was this whole other thing - suddenly it was all about looks.
Tennis is pretty unforgiving if you are carrying weight. You are expected to wear short skirts, and you are compared to all these and year-olds. Nobody needed to tell me - I only had to look in the mirror or try on my clothes. I tried so hard to lose weight.
Every year began with a resolution - I would wake up in the morning thinking about my size, and go to bed at night staring at the ceiling, hungry. I tried this fad diet or that and I lost the weight and then two months later I would gain it back again and more. Seles won one more major title, the Australian Open in , but though she still wanted to win as much as ever, she could not stop eating long enough to allow her to do so. Wimbledon was always the lowest point of her year, she says.
There was the pressure of playing on grass, which was not my favourite surface, and worse, the British press, which would always be on to me, first about my grunting then about my size. I dreaded those fortnights. My heaviest ever was Wimbledon: my father was very sick, the outfit I had to wear that year didn't help, I was 35lb overweight. You cannot carry that around a grass court. I was reading the articles before I went on court.
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And then if a player hit a drop shot or something I'd be thinking: 'If I was skinnier I'd have got that ball' and 'Did she do that because of my size? The cycle of seeing her picture in the papers and being alone with room service and a mini-bar did not help.
And then at press conferences I would have to sit there while these guys who had written about how fat I was asked me questions. And you know sports writers are not necessarily in the best shape themselves. These enormous guys, asking me if I could be in better shape - I mean, look at yourself in the mirror! Don't be so brutal! Seles can laugh about it now, but at the time it was never a joke.