Man charged with attempted murder after Seles attack

May 1, 1993
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HAMBURG, Germany -- A German man described by investigators as mentally disturbed was charged Saturday with attempted murder for stabbing tennis star Monica Seles during a tournament, police said.

The 38-year-old suspect, identified only as Guenter P., is from the eastern German state of Thuringia. He was taken into custody Friday immediately after the attack on Seles, the world's top-ranked woman tennis player.

A police spokesman described the man as being mentally disturbed, and said the suspect told Hamburg's murder squad he was a fan of Seles's rival, Steffi Graf of Germany.

Seles's injuries were not life threatening and she was expected to be discharged from a hospital late Saturday.

Police said the assailant had told them he never intended to kill Seles, 19, but only wanted to injure her. He maintained during further interrogations Saturday that he wanted to put Seles out of action to help Graf reclaim the top spot in women's tennis.

Graf visited Seles in the hospital Saturday morning.

'We hardly knew what to say, but I think the incident brought us a little closer,' Graf said. 'She was very happy that I visited her. I hope this incident isn't hyped too much, which could give others similar ideas. There will always be such people.'

Although Seles's wounds were not life-threatening, two prominent doctors at the University Hospital in Hamburg said she will have a tough time overcoming the mental trauma brought on by the attack.

'The psychological state of the patient has been affected because of the insidiousness and the possible severe effects of such an attack,' the doctors said in astatement.

'Luckily the diagnosis indicated no life-threatening injuries. Further examinations carried out in the morning (Saturday) showed no complications,' they said.

Seles's attacker reached over the railing and stabbed her in the back with a 10-inch narrow-bladed knife during a break in play in her match against Bulgarian Magdalena Maleev.

Seles screamed, rose from her seat and walked toward the net before her knees buckled and she took a seated position on the court as aides rushed to her side. She was later wheeled away on a stretcher and taken to University Hospital.

Seles snatched the No. 1 position from Graf on March 11, 1991, and has since dominated women's tennis. She has won seven of the last eight Grand Slam championships she has played.

The Hamburg tournament marked Seles's return to the circuit after a nine-week layoff to due a severe case of flu. Muscle injuries resulting from the stabbing will keep her out of action for at least four weeks, ruling her out of the French Open, which begins May 24.

It was first feared the attacked, witnessed by 7,000 horrified center court spectators, was politically motivated.

Seles, whose family is of Hungarian descent, was born in Novi Sad, Vojvodina, in what is now northern Serbia. Serbia gained control over the formerly autonomous province of Vojvodina four years ago, prompting strong opposition from ethnic groups living there.

Although her nationality is listed as Yugoslav on the tennis circuit, Seles has lived in Sarasota, Fla., since 1986. She has refused to comment on the political situation in her homeland since the outbreak of hostilities in the former Yugoslavia.

Seles came under criticism from Croatian players like Goran Ivanisevic for refusing to take a stand in the Serbian-Croatian conflict.

Despite recent fears by German security officials of 'terrorist attacks' by nationals of former Yugoslavia, there had been no special security measures for Seles.

Like all other players, she was accompanied by two security guards from a private agency, who were unable to prevent the attack.

Meanwhile, tournament Director Guenter Sanders said Saturday the event would continue as scheduled later in the day with the semifinals.

'They (the players) said the tournament should continue,' he said after recieving the go-ahead from the four semifinal participants, Graf, Maleeva, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Jana Novotna.

German Davis Cup captain Niki Pilic was among a number of tennis officials and players who sent consoling faxes and letters to Seles.

'Those who signed wish her all the best and a quick recovery, and hope that she will be able to retain her No. 1 position in the world,' Pilic said. 'It was terrible thing to happen. I hope Monica does not have a bad memory of Germany now.'

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