Top women’s tennis player Monica Seles is stabbed by a deranged German man during a match in Hamburg. The assailant, a fan of German tennis star Steffi Graf, apparently hoped that by injuring Seles his idol Graf would be able to regain her No. 1 ranking.
Seles became the youngest woman to win the French Open in 1990 when she defeated No. 1-ranked Steffi Graff in the finals. In 1991, Seles, a power player with a habit of grunting loudly during matches, replaced Graf as the top-ranked women’s player. At the time of the 1993 attack, she had won eight Grand Slam titles and was ranked No. 1 in the world. On April 30, 1993, Seles, then 19, was sitting on a courtside seat during a changeover in her match against Magdalena Maleeva at the Hamburg Open when 38-year-old Gunter Parche leaned over a fence and stabbed her between the shoulder blades with a knife. Parche was quickly apprehended by security officials and Seles was taken to the hospital. She recovered from her physical injuries but was left with deep emotional scars and didn’t play again professionally for another two years.
Parche, who was described as a mentally unbalanced loner, contended he was only trying to hurt Seles, not kill her. A German court convicted him of grievous bodily harm in October 1993 and he received a two-year suspended sentence. Seles, along with many others, was angered by the lenient verdict and prosecutors eventually won the right to a re-trial. However, the judge at Parche’s second trial in 1995 upheld the suspended sentence.
In August 1995, Seles, who became a U.S. citizen the previous year, made her tennis comeback by winning the Canadian Open. The next month, she lost the U.S. Open finals to Steffi Graf. In January 1996, she won her fourth Australian Open and final Grand Slam title. In 2003, a foot injury forced Seles out of competition, and she played only sporadically. In February 2008, Seles officially retired.