A certain lack of imagination was required to win the French Open. It was a tournament of punches and puddles. You had to crank your spirits up and push your body through the soggy days. In the end Monica Seles, the 18-year-old Yugoslav with the screech and the two-fisted swing from both sides, and Jim Courier, the aggressively dull redhead from tiny Dade City, Fla., both successfully defended their titles by displaying perhaps the most important quality they share: the vastly underrated ability to simply not get beat.
Courier's toughest opponent was a head cold. He lost only one set in seven matches and defeated seventh-seeded Petr Korda of Czechoslovakia 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 in a men's final on Sunday that was purely ceremonial. Upon clinching his victory, Courier, exulting in a third Grand Slam title at 21, paid tribute to Johnny Carson, who was seated courtside, by imitating Carson's Tonight Show golf swing and to the crowd by delivering a gracious speech partly in French.
As for Seles, only one conclusion could be reached after watching her win her sixth Grand Slam title with a desperately fought 6-2, 3-6, 10-8 victory over second-ranked Steffi Graf: No one in the game is a more tenacious competitor. Seles lost four match points with Graf serving at 5-3 in that epic third set, and a full hour would pass before she got another. Graf led 6-5 and 7-6 and then broke serve to level the score at 8-8 before Seles prevailed on match point number 6. Well, I did it, she thought as she jogged to the net to shake Graf's hand, too exhausted to manage more than a smile after playing for two hours and 43 minutes. "That's the hardest I've ever had to work for a Grand Slam title," said Seles, who is the first woman to win three straight French championships since Hilde Sperling did so between 1935 and '37.
Seles's ability to overcome deficits was remarkable throughout the tournament. In the fourth round 150th-ranked Akiko Kijimuta of Japan led Seles 4-1 in the third set before Seles ran off five consecutive games and wrested a 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 victory in the mud and rain. In the semifinals Seles trailed third-seeded Gabriela Sabatini 4-2 in the final set. Sabatini, who won only two points in the next three games, still doesn't know how Seles recovered. "I thought she was tired, and all of a sudden she was stronger," said Sabatini after falling 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. "I don't know where she got the power."
Seles was so worn out by her exertions that she could barely celebrate after her triumph in Saturday's final, so she simply dined with her family in their Paris hotel. Still, ever the aspiring starlet, Seles had her hair and makeup done before going down to dinner.
Seles had her hair done—or, rather, undone—before the tournament, too. She likes to do something fun or silly before each Grand Slam event to release tension. And she has always wanted to try her talents in the entertainment field, so a friend in the music business in Paris arranged for her to cut a video. Seles wanted a new look for the taping and made an appointment at a salon. Trouble was, that salon, which had a blue door, was on the same block as another salon with a blue door, and Seles went into the wrong one. Seles, whose native tongue is Hungarian and who speaks a little French, proceeded to hold a babbling conversation with a stylist who seemed quite agreeable. "Then things got a little confusing," said Seles. She later said she merely meant to have her hair darkened a little "to go with my eyes," which are blue-green. Instead, she ended up with tresses the color of soot. You half expected to see the dye running down her neck in the rain.
One can only tremble in anticipation of how she may prepare for Wimbledon, which begins on June 22. This much was known last week: Seles planned to practice on grass at Scotland's famed Glen-eagles golf resort and to attend Ascot on June 16. "I think it's kind of good to take off and do something different," she said. "There's so much pressure in a Grand Slam tournament, and if you started thinking about it too soon, by the second week it would be too much."
The routine is working, because Seles has yet to lose a Grand Slam final. But she is not a dominating sort of champion. In Paris she won an event that figured to be a virtual toss-up among the top four seeds. In the two semifinal matches and the final, serve was broken a total of 39 times. Graf, who missed the Australian Open in January with German measles, has rarely wanted to win a tournament as badly as she wanted to win Roland Garros this year. In the 1991 French Open, Arantxa Sánchez Vicario routed Graf 6-0, 6-2 in the semis, but in their semi last Thursday, Graf turned around what started out to be an eerie replay, winning 0-6, 6-2, 6-2.
If the final isn't remembered as a classic, the reason will be Graf's numerous unforced errors. She committed 66 to Seles's 30. Still, she provided some clues as to how to play Seles. Pester her with chips and slices. Drop-shot her to bring her to net, where she is uncomfortable. Attack her weak serve.
But what do you do about Seles's steely resolve? It's a quality a couple of unhappy-looking teenagers could use more of. Mary Pierce, 17, and Jennifer Capriati, 16, met, fittingly, in the round of 16. It seemed as if more eyes were on their overbearing fathers, Jim Pierce and Stefano Capriati, as they sat hunched in the players' box, than on Jennifer, who was seeded fifth, and No. 13 Mary. Jennifer and Mary were acquaintances in the junior ranks, but their paths have diverged. While Jennifer became the darling of the U.S. Tennis Association, Jim Pierce feuded with the USTA and finally bolted to France with his family, settling near Nice and using the French citizenship of his wife, Yannick, to get Mary into the French national program.