Reporters out in search of elusive Monica Seles


WIMBLEDON, England -- A Yugoslav journalist, who begs "please, don't mention my name," says his newspaper has spies "like Interpol" all over the United States.

Their job? "To find Monica, of course," he said.

Monica Seles, once the No. 1 women's seed at Wimbledon, has still not surfaced. She and her family remain silent on the cause of the injury that caused Seles abruptly to pull out of Wimbledon on Friday, three days before the tournament was to begin.

But reports that Seles has suffered a stress fracture related to the shin splints that pained her even as she won the French Open three weeks ago seemed to take on more credence yesterday.

[Today, The Sun of London had a spreaf suggesting that Seles is pregrnant. The story went on to quote Yugoslav newspapers as saying Seles has gained 18 pounds in the past six weeks.

"Is Monica a Wimblemum?" read the headline. "Tennis Ace, 17, pulled out 'because baby is on way'" read the sub-headline.]

Richard Steadman, an orthopedic specialist who operated on Martina Navratilova's knees last winter, said from Vail, Colo., that he had seen Seles. "Yes," he said, "I know what is wrong with Monica. I wish I could tell people. But the family doesn't wish that information to be released right now."

Tournament directors from an exhibition event in Mahwah, N.J., and the Mazda Tennis Classic in San Diego, where Seles is scheduled to play the weeks of July 15 and July 29, both said that they expected Seles to be on hand.

Some reports had Seles' injury so serious that her entire summer schedule, including the U.S. Open in August, was jeopardized. But if she can come back in July, it would seem to indicate that the injury is merely a stress fracture.

A spokesman for the Mahwah exhibition said, "We had spoken to the family and they assure us that Monica will be fine."

Raquel Giscafre, a spokeswoman for the Mazda Classic, said, "We're quite confident Monica will be ready to play here. We've been assured she wants to play and is likely to be able to."

Most strange in the whole affair has been the silence of the people at International Management Group, the powerful firm that represents many tennis professionals, including Seles, and even the Wimbledon tournament in some financial dealings.

Yesterday, Robin Rizzo, who was taking calls at IMG headquarters in Cleveland, said the firm had no further information on Seles' condition or prognosis. That has led to speculation that Seles' injury is serious, or perhaps career-threatening.

The 17-year-old won the first two legs of the Grand Slam this year, the French and Australian Opens, and had recently signed a series of lucrative endorsement contracts, including one with a beauty-care product.

The beauty company had completed a highly publicized makeover of Seles before the French Open.

One agent for another management company said that "all this secrecy would lead me to think that IMG is trying to practice some damage control. If Monica is out for any length of time, some of these companies might be wondering what they've spent all their money for."

But Steadman said he "saw no reason" why Seles wouldn't be ready to play tennis in July. "It's not impossible," he said.

Steffi Graf, who became the No. 1 seed when Seles withdrew, said that "the whole thing is a little strange. I just don't see why Monica doesn't say what is wrong."

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