Seles leads '09 Hall of Fame class

NEWPORT, R.I. -- For all her success -- nine Grand Slam titles and a riveting game marked by a trademark grunt -- Monica Seles does not dwell on might have been if not for that ghastly day in Germany in 1993.

"I try not to ask myself those questions because there are really no answers to it," she said.

Seles was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Thursday, honored for a career in which she won 53 singles titles, including four at the Australian Open, three at the French Open and two at the U.S. Open.

"It was just a lot of highs and a lot of lows," she said during a conference call. "One of the things that always kept me going was my love of the game."

Also elected were 1972 French Open champion Andres Gimeno, Association for Tennis Professionals co-founder Donald Dell and the late Robert Johnson, who pioneered the integration of tennis. The induction is July 11.

Known for her two-tone grunts and two-handed swings, Seles first rose to No. 1 in 1991. She was 17, at the time the youngest woman to have topped the rankings. By the time she was 19, Seles had already won eight majors.

But in April 1993, at the height of her success, she was stabbed in the back during a changeover at a tournament in Hamburg. A man reached over a courtside railing and knifed her, leaving an inch-deep slit between her shoulder blades.

Seles returned to the game 27 months later and immediately reached the 1995 U.S. Open final. Her final Grand Slam title then came at the 1996 Australian Open; she would go on to reach two more major finals.

Hampered by an injured left foot, she played her last match at the 2003 French Open at age 29. Thinking she might try to come back at some point, Seles waited until last year to officially announce her retirement.

Born in what was then Yugoslavia, Seles moved to the United States when she was 13 to work at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. She became a U.S. citizen in 1994 and helped the United States win three Fed Cup titles.

Seles also won an Olympic bronze medal in 2000 and at the age of 16 became the youngest French Open champion in history. She called her first major victory the greatest of her career.

"As a 16-year-old, everybody says, 'Oh, you're going to be great, blah, blah, blah,'" she said. "Until you actually do it, you don't believe it."

Gimeno, elected in the Masters Player category, still holds the record for being the oldest French Open champion: The Spaniard was two months shy of 35 when he won at Roland Garros.

He was also the runner-up to Rod Laver at the Australian Open in 1969 -- Laver would go on to win all four Grand Slam titles that year -- and reached a career-best ranking of No. 9.

Dell and Johnson were both chosen in the Contributor category.

As a player, Dell was on the U.S. Davis Cup team in the early 1960s. As a nonplaying captain, he led the country to Davis Cup championships in 1968 and 1969.

His biggest impact on tennis, though, came in marketing and business: He was the first person to manage tennis players' careers, served as the ATP's first general counsel for eight years and is a founder of Washington's Legg Mason Tennis Classic.

Johnson, who lived from 1899-1971, is credited with helping launch the careers of Grand Slam title winners Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson.

"It was Johnson's vision and innovative groundwork that gave Gibson and Ashe -- and all future black champions -- the training ground and road map to succeed," the Hall said in its announcement of the inductees.