Calendar slam and most titles in a season in history as a teenager-or play until 35, but only win 1 slam?

The tennis players Steffi Graf and Monica Seles prior to the final of the 1992 French Open in Paris. (Photo by Dimitri Iundt/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
The tennis players Steffi Graf and Monica Seles prior to the final of the 1992 French Open in Paris. (Photo by Dimitri Iundt/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images) /

In sport, time and time again we have seen cases of greatness which have been cut short in the most painful of circumstances. There are a number of ‘what if’ stories which seem to exist- such as Monica Seles in women’s tennis, or Derrick Rose in professional basketball. It is often difficult to accept when a player could have been anything in sport- but injury or other circumstances spoilt their chances. In tennis, Monica Seles was one of the greatest players ever to pick up a tennis racquet- despite her career being destroyed while she was in her prime. Winning 9 grand slam titles, 8 of them as a teenager, Monica Seles was, as a teenager, already halfway to the tally of the then leader in grand slams, Martina Navratilova. However, a freak stabbing in her 4th season on tour (1993) led to the end of one of sports most remarkable ever runs. Seles in consecutive seasons was the year end world number 1 (1991 and1992)- and in her 3rd full year on tour, finished as the 2nd ranked player in the world. In her 4th season on tour (1992), she was 1 match short of completing the calendar grand slam by 18.

Having won nine titles the year she turned 17, ten titles the year she turned 18, and another ten titles the year she turned 19, Monica Seles was unmatched in every sense of the word. Seles boasted 63 top ten wins as a teenager, which included 9 top ten wins at 16 years of age, 16 top ten wins at age 17, 22 top ten wins at 18 , and 5 top ten wins at 19 years of age. She was on a roll even in 1993, winning 3 titles and making a 4th final- and by her fourth season on tour, she had won 231 matches, and finished with an astonishing 30 titles by the end of her final teenage years. Unfortunately though, what seemed like one of the greatest stories tennis had ever seen had been put to an end, with a horror stabbing at the hands of an utterly deranged spectator in April 1993.

Waiting the night before a grand slam final is often described by tennis players as one of the hardest nights to try to get some sleep. Often players describe it as being the most nervous they have ever been in their lives. Nevertheless, Monica Seles had experienced this feeling as a teenager almost 10 times already. Tennis players who have made just 1 slam final often describe the thought of making scenarios in their head about how the match would eventuate. Playing out the outcome of the match, the trophy celebration, holding the trophy above their head, or standing dejected with the runner-up plate. Monica Seles hadn’t just dreamt about it, she actualised this dream 8 times as a teenager. Keep in mind it is so difficult to even make a grand slam final. Many great players you may have seen in your time watching tennis have never been able to experience the feeling of even losing a grand slam final. However, winning can also be so temporary. It is unfortunate that for some reason Monica Seles isn’t automatically considered the greatest female tennis player in history. Despite a run in the sport likely to never again be matched, the saddest part about this story is that other players who were lucky enough to be compete for another 15 years would be remembered as the better player if they won more slams in twice the amount of time.

All in all, would you rather be a young breakout star who wins the calendar slam and the most titles in a season in history-but gets injured and never recovers-or play until your 35, only winning 1 slam but making 3 grand slam finals a year until you retire?