The WTA Tour's decision to grant Seles co-No. 1 status was intended to acknowledge the horrific circumstances that forced her out of tennis. But it also inflamed resentment among the top players, who haven't cottoned to Seles's recent penchant for shunning the spotlight until a Grand Slam event that she could upstage happened along, as was the case two weeks ago when she announced her comeback during the final weekend of Wimbledon. The WTA formula calls for Seles to be co-ranked No. 1 for six events or 12 months, whichever comes first. Thereafter she will receive special ranking and seeding considerations—which could translate into increased earnings—for up to 18 months.
At issue is the possibility that Seles will not have justified her high ranking after the six-event/12-month mark; mathematically she could remain co-No. 1 with Graf despite a poor performance, thereby relegating, say, Sánchez Vicario to No. 3 instead of No. 2. The leading players apparently feel that while they owe Seles some special consideration, they don't owe her much. It seems not to have occurred to them that they all enjoyed inflated rankings, seedings and pocket-books during Seles's absence.
Is it possible that their egos have also become inflated? Before the stabbing, Seles was an unassailable No. 1, the winner of seven of the previous eight Grand Slam events. Only a fanatic intent on restoring the No. 1 ranking to Graf could unseat her. Martina Navratilova, who will play Seles on July 29 in an exhibition marking Seles's return, deplored the graceless bickering. "Who benefited more than us, myself included?" Navratilova asked after a contentious round of meetings during Wimbledon. "They're not willing to give back to Monica what they gained."
What's Rudy Wrought?
TV sports criticism recently descended to a level that might have prompted the quintessential pundit of the genre, USA Today dot-dot-dotmeister Rudy Martzke, to exclaim, "Say what?!" On July 16, New York Times TV sports critic Richard Sandomir deftly executed a send-up of his profession: He not only took a turn behind the microphone, subbing for host Chet Coppock on cable's New Sport Talk, but also reviewed his own appearance for journalism's Old Gray Lady, calling his effort "pathetic." Of course Sandomir felt compelled to rip the network, too. "It's bad enough when producers think that some of the experienced people they hire are talented," he wrote. "But to let a neophyte pretend to be a professional anchor was arrogant. Or pitiful."
Last week Madison Square Garden announced plans to raise the price of New York Knicks tickets, including a hike in the cost of the 60 VIP seats from $500 to $1,000 a game, which makes them the most-expensive regular-season, single-game tickets in sports. After much initial grumbling—"I better make another hit movie now so I can afford this," said Spike Lee—many members of the courtside glitterati said they would pony up the cash. Membership, after all, does have its privileges. "You can't compare this to any other sport," said Garden spokesman John Cirillo. "In football, a seat on the 50-yard line is still far from the players. You can't have a wide receiver wind up in your lap." Of course, for providing Reggie Miller with a lap of luxury, the Spikester should probably be paid $86,000, the cost of his two season ducats.
Across the Hudson River, the spectator-starved New Jersey Nets took a more fan-friendly approach, offering their 4,300 season-ticket holders a full refund if they're not satisfied with the changes the team has made by the end of the second week of training camp. New Jersey ownership has grown accustomed to losses, both on the court and on their ledger. But with this latest effort to curry goodwill standing in favorable contrast to the team across the river, New Jersey may have finally realized something else: a Net gain.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]