NEW YORK -- What to get a teen-ager who wins 10 tournaments, $2,457,758 in a year and has a closet filled with enough black clothes to make even Morticia Addams jealous?
How about a car?
Yesterday, Monica Seles ended the 1991 women's tennis season by overwhelming Martina Navratilova, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 6-0, in the best-of-five-set final of the Virginia Slims Championships. Today, she will claim her final prize of the year, driving away in a Jaguar convertible awarded to the world's No. 1 player. If she is granted one last wish, the car will come in her favorite color -- black.
"Like a funeral car," Seles said. "It will be my first car."
For Seles, the year was a celebration. She completed one of the more extraordinary runs in women's tennis, one that can be placed up there with Steffi Graf's taking the Grand Slam in 1988, Navratilova's going 86-1 in 1983 and Chris Evert's winning 12 titles in 1976.
"I'll thank my lucky stars that I had such a year," Seles said.
But for all her talent and wealth, the one commodity that eluded the 17-year-old Seles was popularity. Maybe it was because she dropped out of Wimbledon with a mysterious injury or thanked Donald Trump after winning the U.S. Open or flattened nearly all her opponents with a bracing, two-fisted style that lifted her to 16 straight finals and three Grand Slam titles. In women's tennis, to be No. 1 is to be respected but rarely revered.
"The No. 1 player doesn't usually have the adulation," Navratilova BTC said. "Monica needs to do some things that will endear her. She hasn't done that. And she walks to a different drummer. Monica is not your run-of-the-mill human being. And I guess that is why she is No. 1 as well."
Seles' opponents hear the cheers. The 17,337 fans in Madison Square Garden came to praise Navratilova, the 35-year-old star who was trying to break the tie with Evert for most career titles, 157. Two weeks ago, Navratilova tied Evert by beating Seles in the final in Oakland, Calif.
Yesterday, Navratilova gave Seles a match for 90 minutes. Had the final ended in three sets, instead of five, the conclusion would have been satisfactory. But the tournament and the season went on for an added set and dragged to an inevitable close, Seles slamming returns to Navratilova's feet and unloading from the baseline with marvelous passing shots.
"She is clearly No. 1 for this year, just like Steffi [Graf] was clearly No. 1 for the year before and the year before and the year before," Navratilova said. "And I was No. 1 a couple of years before that. Whether she [Monica] can repeat next year, you know, that remains to be seen. But in the major tournaments, she was 4-for-4. So that is pretty good."
Navratilova plans to play on next year, even while saying, "I don't have any right to be out here at my age." She'll skip the clay at the French Open to concentrate on a pursuit of a 10th Wimbledon title.
Seles will try to improve on near-perfection, and she too will try to add a Wimbledon title to her Grand Slam collection.
"The good times overshadowed the year," Seles said. "I wish some things never happened. But I am always learning from my mistakes. I will not dwell on what I've done this year and let it bother me."
What Seles accomplished in 1991 was this: She established her rule in women's tennis with a shriek and a smile.
"It's always important who is No. 1 at the end of the year," she said. "I won't say to myself that I have to get to every final next year, because then, I wouldn't. I have to forget about being No. 1 and I have to start all over."