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Seles Unhappy That Graf Made Criticism Public

July 25, 1991|SCOTT MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Monica Seles arrives in Southern California next week in conjunction with the Mazda Tennis Classic at La Costa.

The world's No. 1-ranked women's tennis player is bringing her dog, Astro, and a few hard feelings toward Steffi Graf after Graf's criticism this week of Seles' schedule. "Steffi has her own opinions and I have my own opinions, but I don't think they are supposed to be public," Seles said during a conference call Wednesday. "Women's tennis is a small group. I think the top players should stick together and not make accusations."

Graf's criticism came during this week's Federation Cup, which Seles decided to skip after playing last week in an unsanctioned exhibition in Mahwah, N.J. Seles said she bowed out of the Federation Cup because of a leg injury, the same problem that she says kept her out of Wimbledon last month.

Speaking publicly for the first time since Graf on Tuesday called Seles' actions "just not excusable," Seles said she is calmer now than she was during the Wimbledon fiasco, despite the criticism.

Seles could be barred from the 1992 Summer Olympics because of her failure to play in the 32-nation Federation Cup. To be allowed to participate in the Olympics, she must prove through a doctor's certificate that her leg injury prevented her from playing in the Federation Cup.

She also was fined $20,000 by the Women's Tennis Assn. for playing in a non-sanctioned event.

"I hope the (International Tennis Federation) realizes the case I've put forward," Seles said. "For me, the most important thing is my leg, not the Fed Cup or the Olympics or any tournament."

But the exhibition, Seles said Wednesday, gave her a chance to test her leg.

"I'm trying to prevent everything I can," she said.

Seles, 17, said she doesn't think her public image has suffered despite her mysterious injury and subsequent claim that she was suffering from shin splints and a stress fracture.

But she also didn't think she was causing a stir by being absent at Wimbledon.

"I don't read the sports section, ever," she said. "And, at that point, I didn't want to read or watch television. Basically, I spent the whole day in therapy. I wanted to get away from tennis.

"I was trying different things, seeing millions of doctors. I didn't care about anything else."

When asked if she was afraid the injury was career-threatening, she said no.

She explained, however, that she was worried because she has had the leg problem twice.

"That's why it was dangerous," she said.

And the treatment?

"I just need to wear a special sole in my shoe."

Seles said she is at full speed and is set for her first tournament since winning the French Open final June 8. So she and Astro will travel to San Diego--and then, Aug. 12-18, to the Virginia Slims of Los Angeles--and see if the tennis can overtake the controversy.

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