Seles will return to a share of No. 1


When Monica Seles returns to competitive tennis July 29 in Atlantic City, N.J., for an exhibition match against Martina Navratilova, she will come back to the game she loves as the co-No. 1 player in the world alongside Steffi Graf.

Seles was No. 1 when she was stabbed in the back 27 months ago at a tournament in Hamburg, Germany, by a fan of Graf's who wanted Graf to regain the top ranking.

"We'll make the official announcement [today or tomorrow]," Navratilova said yesterday via conference call of the agreement that will rank Seles co-No. 1 through her first six WTA events.

"The bottom line is the players do want Monica back," said Navratilova, president of the WTA Tour. "We have to have her seeded and co-ranked No. 1 because that's where she was before she got hurt and that's where she belongs.

"Shortly, I'm sure, she'll live up to that ranking. It would be insane not to have her seeded and have the possibility of her playing a Steffi Graf or an Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the first or second round of a tournament. That wouldn't do anybody any good. So, we need to give her her rightful place."

Seles, 21, was also on the conference call and giggled every time she considered her return.

"This is a very exciting time for me," she said. "I've been practicing very hard, with my brother mostly. . . but it was playing with Martina here [at her Florida home last May] that really started me thinking about coming back.

"It was so much fun playing with her. I thought, 'This is fun! Why am I not doing this?' I realized I kind of missed that feeling. . . . . I feel pretty good now, and for me to make the next step, it's going to take actually going out there and doing it, to go to the next level and try to put this thing [the stabbing] behind me, to actually put it in a box.

"But I think people should know that without Martina's help, it would not have happened this way."

Seles said she plans to play two tour events before next month's U.S. Open.

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