"Asked for his autograph and he brushed me off, not even with a smile" - When Monica Seles recounted 'sad' childhood experience with ping pong player

Monica Seles once recounted her sad experience with a ping pong player
Monica Seles once recounted her sad experience with a ping pong player

Monica Seles once shared the reason why she always indulged fans' requests for autographs, recounting a negative experience with a ping pong player during her childhood, which left a lasting impression on her.

Representing the United States, Seles was the top seed at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. She made a strong start to her campaign for her maiden Olympic medal with a commanding 6-0, 6-4 win over China's Chen Li. Following her win, she graciously greeted the fans, spending considerable time signing autographs and interacting with them.

During her post-match press conference, Monica Seles opened up about the outpouring of positive and encouraging messages she had received from the fans, disclosing that they wished her luck in her pursuit of the gold medal.

She also highlighted her commitment to signing autographs throughout her career, reminiscing that she had stayed back for over an hour to indulge the fans after her triumph at the 1992 US Open.

"They all say "good luck, go for the gold," and they are all very positive, "great to have you back." I usually always sign then. I sign autographs all my career, I mean, I remember in 1992 at the Madison Square Garden after my finals I stayed there at least an hour or even longer to sign," Monica Seles said.

Seles shared that her dedication to prioritizing time for fans was born from a "sad" experience during her childhood. She recounted attending a ping pong tournament in her hometown, where a player callously dismissed her request for an autograph.

"I think that is part of it. Maybe one of the reasons because when I was a child, the ping pong tournament was in my hometown and I went up to this guy asked for his autograph. I was this little, and he just like brushed me off, and not even with a smile. I went home, and I was really sad," she said.

The nine-time Grand Slam champion emphasized the importance of engaging with fans, highlighting how it could brighten their supporters' day. She spoke about her own experience seeking autographs, mentioning her memorable encounter with Muhammad Ali at the Olympics.

"And when somebody signs something, I think it makes your day; especially if you look up to that person. I have asked other athletes. I asked Mohammad Ali. If I would see a swimmer like Janet Evans or the gymnasts, I would ask them also," she added.

Monica Seles: "I never played in front of a crowd that was so into the match; they were just so supportive"

Monica Seles
Monica Seles

Monica Seles' decision to hang back and sign autographs for fans was understandable, given her immense appreciation for the overwhelming support she received from the passionate home crowd during the match.

"There was nothing like it. I mean, like today's crowd, I never played in front of a crowd that was so into the match, really from the beginning. And they were just so supportive that I have never felt -- experienced anything like that. It was the same as being part of the opening day ceremonies," Monica Seles said in the same press conference.

She highlighted the uplifting impact of having fans cheer during tough moments in matches, emphasizing its value for athletes.

"Even when I was down, it helps you so much as an athlete to know the crowd is behind you so much. It was like, wow, to get down there saying to yourself come on, just do it, don't get frustrated," she added.

Monica Seles went on to beat Canada's Patricia Hy-Boulais and Argentina's Gabriela Sabatini in straight sets to reach the quarterfinals of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The Czech Republic's Jana Novotna ended Seles' run with a 7-5, 3-6, 8-6 win in the last-eight.

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