While she quickly recovered, the attack effectively stalled Seles’ career, which was later plagued by injuries, an eating disorder, and the death of her father and coach, Karoly Seles. After the stabbing, the tennis star took two years off, during which time she also battled with binge eating disorder -- something that she’s faced most of her career. Seles eventually made a brief return to the sport two years later, adding one more Grand Slam title, the Australian Open, to her collection in 1996.
“My last Grand Slam title was totally different,” Seles says. “After the stabbing, to come back and know that to a certain degree I could still play at that level, it was special.”
Though, she eventually lost ground on the competition, unable to keep up with Serena and Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Justine Henin, all of whom were quickly coming up the ranks. Seles' last appearance at a Grand Slam final was in 1998 at the French Open, just days after her father died.
“I was very close to my dad, not only was he my coach, but really my best friend,” Seles says.
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She played her last match during the 2003 French Open before officially retiring in 2008. “It was a wonderful journey -- I love the game of tennis -- but I needed a break from it,” she says. “I needed to move onto other journeys, other passions.” After tennis, Seles first appeared on Dancing With the Stars, which saw her eliminated early in the competition.
“It was just the polar opposite of anything I’ve ever done,” Seles says, finally agreeing to do the show after being courted by ABC for multiple years. “It was a great experience. I realized that I had zero rhythm and all that stuff, but it was still a lot of fun.”
Now, she’s focused on sharing her personal journey with binge eating disorder, which she first documented in her biography, Getting a Grip: On My Life, My Body, My Self, to raise awareness for mental health and eating disorders. “It's very hard to talk about your own struggles, but then I thought, ‘Boy, I can help a lot of adults out there so they don't feel alone,’” Seles says, explaining why she teamed up with Shire for Mental Health Month.
“I was very lucky that I liked my sport because I wasn't pushed by my parents or anything like that, and now it has given me a platform to talk about binge eating disorder and really help people out there who might be suffering from it,” Seles adds.
reporting from Kristen MacDonald