It's 3:45. Her mother isn't back. Neither is her hitting partner. She loves being alone, craves solitude as plants crave light. But it's an enemy, too, a time when Monica finds herself thinking, What's going to hit me next? She thinks of her father. She thinks of her mother dying someday. "Life is so dark," she says. People tell her to snap out of it, "and I cannot snap out of it," she says. Like Karolj, who seemed so light-hearted yet carried memories of watching his own father, an ethnic Hungarian, tortured by the Communist regime in Yugoslavia, Monica's psyche bears a blackness that can envelop her like fog. Once, she tried to keep that hidden.
"I was definitely a pleaser. Even until last year I always wanted everybody to like me," she says. "Then I realized: Just be who you are. You don't have to make everybody else happy if you're really not happy. I realized with my dad, when he was dying, that everything is so much a facade. The only time you're true to yourself is when you die. You have no pretensions. I don't want to wait until I'm dying to be like that."
She wants another 10 years. She wants to be like Chris Evert and play until age 34, and she's willing to pay the price: She knows she has to get fit, add a one-handed slice, come to the net more. She knows she needs to be three steps faster to keep up with the kids. But the real question is, How will Seles fill the void? She has friends on tour but no one who can relate to the demands of her talent and fame. The one person who could understand her—the way only Martina Navratilova could understand Evert—is Graf. But with one swipe Parche severed their rivalry and left the two bonded only by a guilt and fear that they both want desperately to erase.
"We have a history, but we've never been close at all," Graf says. "I'm trying to be open to people. I'm really trying. But with her, there's been too much between us—too much happening, too much said—that has been difficult for me to understand. It has been years, and we really haven't had any contact since. I was just hoping that time will—well, it will never be gone—but somehow make it easier to live with."
For solace Monica has mostly her mother and friends such as IMG boss Mark H. McCormack and his wife, Betsy Nagelsen, and the crowds who come to see her. She has mixed feelings about her fans these days. When she walks into a restaurant, it feels "like I'm being X-rayed." People ask the most personal questions, but in the end, she says, "it helps. I know I'm not by myself."
Never. On her first day in Carlsbad, after losing a doubles match, Seles wades into a swarm of people at courtside to sign autographs. Quickly, the pack threatens to wheel out of control, men and kids shoving, Seles's bodyguard yelling, "Back off the court!" in a voice edged with panic. Seles keeps scribbling. Pow! A balloon pops: Her body recoils, her face jerks. She grits her teeth and keeps signing: paper, balls, programs. Nothing to do now but push ahead.