Monica Seles, who celebrates her birthday today, is one of the most accomplished players in WTA history, capturing nine majors and spending 178 weeks at No. 1. But beyond all the top-line numbers, she achieved a number of firsts, some of which still haven’t been seconded. Here are 10 of them:
She won her first six Grand Slam finals
Seles started off 6-0 in major finals until she lost her seventh—at Wimbledon in 1992—to Steffi Graf. Only one other player in the Open Era, male or female, has won more than their first three major finals in a row: Roger Federer was 7-0 until falling to Rafael Nadal in his eighth at Roland Garros in 2006.
She won seven of the eight majors she played from '91 to '93
In the two-year, nine-Grand Slam span from the 1991 Australian Open to the 1993 Australian Open, Seles was an incredible 55-1 at majors, winning seven of them. The only loss came at the hands of Graf in the 1992 Wimbledon final, and she had to withdraw from Wimbledon in 1991 due to shin splints.
At one point, her record at the Australian Open was better than Rafa’s at Roland Garros
Seles won the first four Australian Opens she played in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1996, and extended her perfect record in Melbourne to 33-0 by reaching the semifinals in her next appearance in 1999, falling to Martina Hingis. Nadal was 31-0 at Roland Garros before his first defeat there in 2009.
She once saved six match points to beat Serena
Serena Williams has always been one of the best closers in the game, but she fell to Seles in the quarterfinals of Los Angeles in 2001, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (2), despite holding six match points in the third set. To this day, Seles is the only player to fight off five or more match points to beat Serena.
She was a perfect 39-0 in first-round matches at majors—until her last major
We talk a lot about Serena’s incredible record in first-round matches at majors—she’s currently 75-1, and it started off as 46-0. But Seles had Serena-like numbers herself, going 39-0 until her very last major at the 2003 French Open, where she fell to Nadia Petrova. It was also her last career match.
She won the fourth major she ever played
Not only did Seles reach the semifinals in the first major she ever played at the 1989 French Open, but she won the fourth major she played at the 1990 French Open. It was her record alone until Bianca Andreescu matched the feat by triumphing in her fourth major appearance at the 2019 US Open.
She was the first Grand Slam champion to hit with two hands on both sides
Players who hit with two hands on both sides are a rare sight, but only two have won majors in the Open Era. Seles was the first, winning nine majors between the 1990 French Open and 1996 Australian Open. At Wimbledon in 2013, Marion Bartoli became the only other one, as of now...
She reached 21 straight finals at one point
Between October 1990 and March 1992, Seles reached the final at 21 events in a row, winning 15 of them—the streak was snapped at Miami, where she fell to Jennifer Capriati in the quarters. Martina Navratilova holds the record for most consecutive WTA finals reached with 23 in 1983 and 1984.
She was the youngest major champion in the Open Era (until Hingis)
Seles won her first Grand Slam title as a 16-year-old at the 1990 French Open, which made her the youngest Grand Slam champion in the Open Era, male or female. She was later dethroned by Hingis, who was a younger 16 when she captured her first major at the 1997 Australian Open.
She was the youngest No. 1, too (until Hingis)
When she first ascended to No. 1 as a 17-year-old on March 11, 1991, Seles was the youngest player ever to reach No. 1 on either the ATP or WTA rankings. She’s since been bettered by just one player, Hingis, who was 16 when she first ascended to No. 1 on the WTA rankings on March 31, 1997.