Gripping: Monica Seles

JR Books published Getting A Grip by Monica Seles. The autobiography of the former number one in women's tennis gives an insight into women’s tennis circuit, dieting, and binge eating. Monica Seles tells the story of her dream of fame, her very own real nightmare, and the demons still hounding her. 

In 1993, Monica Seles was on top of the tennis world. At 19 she was the number one in women’s tennis with eight Grand Slams to her name and looked like going on a record breaking career to equal Martina Navratilova or even to surpass her. Then the unimaginable happened when a demented German spectator attacked her during a tournament and stabbed her in the shoulder. While the attacker got away with a probationary sentence, Monica was sentenced to a life of fear, nightmares and depression.

Instead of a famous career entitling her to multi-million dollar sponsor deals playing tennis, she entered a period of coming to terms with what had happened. She failed miserably and joined the multitude of other crime victims that are unnamed and unknown in their misery and depression. At the same time, her father and coach was diagnosed with cancer which proved to be terminal.

Trying to get back into the game during the nineties, she was constantly hampered by panic attacks, nightmares and a weight gain of 20 kilograms. She never got back into top form and numerous stress injuries bore prove of her weight struggle. As the link between her injuries and her weight was obvious, she became progressively obsessed with getting her weight down to her former sporting weight of 57 kilograms. Buying just about every book on dieting she could get her hands on, she became convinced that regaining her former weight was the key to success.

The set-up would make a perfect misery memoir so far. But Monica shows her sense of humor throughout and self-deprecatingly sees the funny side of many of the situations she got herself into. Seeing the funny side is what elevates this book from being a self-centered moaning binge of a has been celebrity into an uplifting tale of obstacles overcome.

Obviously, the more she tried to diet, the more time she spent before the fridge stuffing her face. She hired a food coach whose duties included emptying the mini-bars in the hotels she was staying in and instructing the staff to not deliver any orders she might place with room service. When she was not staying in a hotel, the food coach slept next to the kitchen to stop her midnight excursions to the fridge and into the larder. This didn't stop her from hopping round the corner to the next convenience store and getting just anything sweet she could get her hands on.

She also tells the story behind the scene of women tennis, the frostiness in the locker room and the strange atmosphere at the tennis events around the world. Quite opposed to men’s tennis where the top seeds are able to be not only respectful to each other, but might even be friends off the court, women tennis players seem to feel a need to keep other top seeds at a distance.

These days, Monica Seles is her confident self again, after realizing that dieting was not solving her problems, but getting to grips with her past, her demons, and her grief for her father was.

The book is very readable for everybody interested in tennis and personal achievement. Obviously, believers in Weight Watchers and other money generating scams will be highly disapproving, but for me it just showed again that eating and drinking don’t make you fat.