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Sunday, July 12, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Monica Seles' "Getting a Grip"—by contributor Rose Sacco, Retroality.TV's "Girl on the Side"

I just was given Monica Seles’ new book Getting a Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self, and—excuse the pun—it WAS gripping. Monica, if you remember, was a star of tennis in the Nineties, when out of nowhere a crazed fan stabbed her in the back at one of her matches. And although that incident is addressed in her autobiography, she includes it as a chapter in her life, NOT the defining moment of who she is. This could be another Hollywood story of rags to riches to rags again, but it’s the opposite. It’s a story of a woman working hard to achieve her goals and dealing with obstacles in her life. It’s the story of Monica stumbling in life, then finding her footing to go on.

It seems as though Monica was born with a racket in her hands. Her dedicated father improvised their own “court” and taught her the fundamentals of the game when she 5 years old. She was born a hard worker, and her natural talent led her to win enough matches to be a junior champion. At 12 she was scouted to train in America with the world’s top tennis coaches. She was turning into a tennis star, and yet the stress of that ridged environment soon began to eat at her self-confidence. Plagued by anxiety, she started eating to deal with stress. At 12 and 13 years old, Monica began a lifelong struggle with weight. She was stuffing her face to stuff down feelings.

Her family supported her in the decision to become a pro player at 15. Monica was lucky enough to be surrounded by family who kept her grounded. When she was earning thousands winning tournaments, her parents still expected normalcy from her. She addresses that fact over and over again—family support helped her reach the success she had in life.

Her stabbing in 1993 took her off the court for the first time since she was a young child. Depression set in, compounded the sad, distressing news that her beloved father was diagnosed with cancer. Her stress binges soon spiraled out of control. And though she fought hard to hit the court again as a contender, her weight battles consumed her.

As I was reading her story, I found Monica so charming and relatable. Most every woman deals with feeling inadequate and insecure. As Monica tells the stories of her professional life, she lets you into her personal struggles in such an honest and graceful way. I felt myself cheering her on, on every page.

—Rose Sacco

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