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Brave? Contrived? A sense of p.r.? Of theater? Who cares? "Monica was almost publicity hungry last year," says Petersen. "She's only now understanding the ramifications of stardom, of being so accessible and trying to please everybody. She's so concerned that she always say and do the right thing. Whether that's an act or the way she was brought up, what does it matter? It's so much better than what we've had."
Exhausted from a heavy exhibition schedule, Seles pulled out of a WTA event in Australia last winter. "We weren't thrilled," says Ana Leaird, the WTA's public relations director. "But otherwise she's bent over backwards for the tour."
Seles has shocked tennis veterans by showing up at places virtually unknown to players of her stature, like an Australian tennis federation-sponsored luncheon at the Aussie Open in Melbourne and the WTA Academy, a school for the young players. The WTA requires all players under 18 to spend one day at its academy listening to various instructions concerning rules, media relations, health care, contracts and the like. Of course, none of the marquee players show up. Leaird says that when she saw Seles arrive for the session in Boca Raton with 75 nobodies, "I thought she was there to speak, not to be a student. Monica actually wrote down notes, asked questions, then took our quiz. I was stunned. She also signs herself up for practice courts at tournaments-most of the Top 10 send their coach or parents. She remembers to thank the tournament directors and the locker-room attendants. I know she also arranges the plane reservations for the whole Seles family. Once Monica actually asked how much tax was being taken out of her winner's check. She's so aware. Most of our girls get on airplanes having forgotten to even pick up their checks."
Last summer the tennis world sat up and took notice of Seles's commitment to her sport when, on the day before Wimbledon, she showed up at a memorial service in London for the beloved couturier and tennis historian Ted Tinling. Aside from Evert, who delivered one of the eulogies, and Shriver, Seles was the only one of the leading women players to attend. "Ted was a great and wonderful man," says Seles, who remembers the first time she saw him—at the Orange Bowl junior tournament in 1986—and the last time. "Ted sat watching my match with [Linda] Harvey-Wild at Lipton last year," she says. "Then he went into the hospital. At the end, I felt like I knew him all my life."
Tinling, a 6'4" shaved-head, near-octogenarian Englishman, had waited more than half his life for a player who approximated the substance and the style of Lenglen, the grande dame of the game and his childhood friend. Two years ago in Paris, Tinling espied young Seles, positively radiant in a frilly polka-dot number ruffled from here to the Eiffel Tower, and he immediately knew his long wait was over. "Monica is the one," he said at high tea one day to nobody in particular. "Thank God Almighty, glamour has finally returned to the game."
During their reigns, Evert and Navratilova surely could not be denied their vastly disparate attractions. But of the current crop of most visible players, Capriati's personality is still forming, Graf seems to have regressed into a cold sternness, and with the dark-eyed, beauteous Sabatini, the question is still asked: Is anybody actually home?
Seles, meanwhile, is out there taking a monstrous, public bite out of life. She's what's happening; she's now. Weaned on the works of Billie Jean King—she quotes often from We Have Come A Long Way, King's history of women's tennis—the new queen of the top has made a point of learning ancient tennis lore. All the while, her inspiration has been Lenglen, "a rock star long before there was rock," says Seles. "There was such anticipation before her matches. Everybody wondered about Suzanne, what she would wear, what she would look like. I would love to be like that. Everything is too simple in tennis now. Wouldn't it be neat to be a mystery woman and bring high fashion back to the sport? To be like Suzanne, like Madonna—out there but untouchable? Like, unreachable!"
Seles seems to know exactly where she is going. She has already given herself only eight more years on the tennis tour. "At 25, I'll be in Hollywood trying to be an actress," she says. Of course, she's already an actress. What she means is that she'll be trying to be a movie star. Go ahead and laugh. But remember another enigmatic European jockster who attempted such a career jump? His name was Schwarzenegger.
But the Terminator never had to fight the good fight against that evil threat to hip-and-thigh tone—butter. Seles loves the stuff. Can't live with it, can't live without it. There she goes again, slathering heaping mounds of butter across her steak, her French fries, her pizza. "Ugh. Gross, totally grody, I know," she says. "But I can't help it. I must be addicted to butter. I just can't eat any food without it. I know it all goes right to fat down there, too [she points below her waist]. I know I've got to switch my diet habits. But I'm waiting until after Wimbledon. If I quit cold on butter now, I'm afraid it would be too much of a shock to my system."
Simplicity, as Seles constantly reminds people, is the bane of her existence. Not only has she taken women's tennis to another level with her ability to take every ball on the rise and fire cannon bursts from both wings with remarkable accuracy, but she also has done it all wrong, the hard way, swinging that unorthodox, two-fisted southpaw forehand with the right hand on top. "It's the way I first picked up the racket, so I stayed with it," she says.