Monica Seles was born in Novi Sad, Vojvodina, Serbia (then Yugoslavia, now Serbia and Montenegro) in 1973. She is an ethnic Hungarian, her name being written Szeles Mónika in Hungarian.
SeleĹˇ began playing tennis at the age of six, coached by her father Károly SeleĹˇ. She won her first tournament at the age of nine, despite not fully understanding the scoring system of the game and having only a vague idea of whether she was leading or trailing her opponents during her matches. In 1985 at the age of 11, she won the prestigious Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, and caught the attention of tennis coach Nick Bollettieri. In 1986, the SeleĹˇ family moved from Yugoslavia to the United States, and Monica enrolled in the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, where she trained for two years.
Seles played her first professional tournament in 1988 at the age of 14. The following year she joined the professional tour full-time and won her first career title at Houston in May 1989, where she beat Chris Evert in the final. A month later, Seles reached the semifinals in her first Grand Slam appearance at the French Open, where she lost to World No. 1 Steffi Graf . Seles finished her first year on the tour ranked World No. 6.
With punishing two-fisted forehand and backhand shots and a strong return of serve, Seles is considered by many to be the first "power player" in the women's game, paving the way for subsequent stars like Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Maria Sharapova. She was also well-known for grunting loudly on court as she blasted balls over the court. On a few occasions this led to complaints from opponents, who claimed that it was distracting and prevented them from hearing the ball make contact with her racquet, and warnings from umpires to keep the noise down.
Seles won her first Grand Slam title at the French Open in 1990. Facing World No. 1 Steffi Graf in the final , Seles saved four set-points in a first-set tie-breaker (which she won 8-6), and went on to take the match in straight-sets. In doing so, she became the youngest-ever French Open champion at the age of 16 years, 6 months.
1991 was the first of two years in which Seles dominated the women's tour. She started out by winning the Australian Open in January, beating Jana Novotná in the final. In March, she dethroned Steffi Graf as the World No. 1. She then successfully defended her French Open title, beating the former youngest-ever winner Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in the final. However after that she did not play at Wimbledon, and instead took a six-week break, blaming shin splints. But she was back in time for the US Open, and won it beating Martina Navrátilová in the final to cement her position at the top of the world rankings. She also helped Yugoslavia win the Hopman Cup that year.
1992 was an equally dominant year. She successfully defended her titles at the Australian Open, the French Open, and the US Open. She also made the final at Wimbledon, but could not manage to break Steffi Graf's dominance on the grass court surface and lost 6-2, 6-1.
During the period from January 1991 to February 1993, Seles won 22 titles and reached 33 finals out of the 34 tournaments she played in. She compiled an astounding 159-12 win-loss record (92.9