January 27

This Day in History

Sports

Jan 27, 1996:

Monica Seles wins first Grand Slam title since being attacked

On January 27, 1996, Serbian-born tennis player Monica Seles, the former No. 1 women’s player in the world, defeats Anke Huber of Germany to win the Australian Open.

The win in Melbourne was Seles’ first Grand Slam title since she was stabbed by Gunther Parche, a self-professed fan of the German tennis champion Steffi Graf during the quarterfinals of the Citizen Cup tournament in Hamburg on April 30, 1993. At that time, the 19-year-old Seles had won more titles as a teenager than any player besides Graf and Chris Evert, including eight Grand Slams (the French Open in 1990, 1991 and 1992; the Australian Open in 1991, 1992 and 1993; and the U.S. Open in 1991 and 1992). Only Wimbledon continued to elude her, though she made it to the finals in 1992.

Obsessed with seeing Graf retain the world No. 1 ranking, Parche stalked Seles at the Citizen Cup until her quarterfinal match against Magdalena Maleeva. During a changeover, Parche lunged across the courtside barrier and stabbed Seles between the shoulder blades with a 10-inch knife, in front of some 6,000 spectators. He was later found psychologically unstable and sentenced to a two-year suspended sentence and psychological treatment.

In the aftermath of the stabbing, a shaken Seles did not return to professional tennis for more than two years. In August 1995, she won her first tournament back, the Canadian Open, beating Amanda Coetzer in the final 6-0, 6-1. She made it to the final of the U.S. Open the following month, reaching the final and holding set point against Graf in the first set before eventually losing 7-6, 0-6, 6-3. Seles’ trajectory seemed to be steadily back on the rise by January 1996, culminating in her 6-4, 6-0 dispatch of Huber in the final on January 27. She would never regain her former glory, however, as she was plagued by injuries and failed to win another Grand Slam title. Her last appearance in a Grand Slam final came at the French Open in 1998, when she defeated the world No. 3, Jana Novotna, and No. 1, Martina Hingis, before losing to Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in a three-set final.

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