Monica Seles: Tennis Star's Off-Court Battle With Depression, Food Addiction

Nine-time grand slam champion Monica Seles once ruled women's tennis.

At 16, Seles became the youngest woman ever to win the French Open and in a two-year stretch, she won seven out of nine grand slam tennis championships. Many thought she was destined to be the best women's tennis player in history.

But her career came to a screeching halt on April 30, 1993, when she was stabbed by a deranged fan during a break in a match in Germany . Now, Seles has chronicled her long journey back in her new memoir, "Getting A Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self." Click HERE to read an excerpt.

Monica Seles

"I was just sitting down and leaning forward, and that's when I suddenly just like… I felt a sharp pain in my back," she said. "And I… I looked back and… and I saw a person, you know, having his hand and a knife, and then, 'Oh my, this guy put a knife in my back.'"

The German, a fan of Seles' chief rival, Steffi Graf, wound up being sentenced to two years on probation.

Seles Stripped From No. 1 Ranking

It would take longer than that for a traumatized Seles to return to tennis. While she was recuperating at her home in Florida, fellow players voted to strip her of the No. 1 ranking. That shifted millions in endorsement dollars from Seles' pockets to theirs. Seles was disappointed in her fellow players' decision.

VIDEO: Monica Seles talks about her battle with depression.

"Tennis is a business. So, you know, it's cutthroat as anything, because you're playing in the world stage and anything can go."

Chris Evert remembers when Seles lost her ranking. "She was on the top of the world, and then she was in the gutter after that."

Family Illness, Food Addiction and Depression

What Seles has never spoken about before is what happened during those years after the stabbing.

Shortly after the attack, and the subsequent loss of her ranking, her beloved father was diagnosed with cancer. The emotional stress from all of these events took their toll, sending Seles into a tailspin of depression and a corresponding addiction to food. In her new book, she candidly describes that struggle with food.

"I ate pasta, burgers, potato chips, late night runs to Taco Bell; I'd lose myself in the cookie and cracker aisle. I'd load up with Oreos, Pop-Tarts, pretzels and barbecue potato chips," she wrote.

Despite the 40 pounds she had gained, Seles tried to mount a comeback two-and-a-half years after the stabbing. At Seles' first match after her long absence, the crowd gave her a standing ovation.

"The amount of support that I felt that first-round match when I walked out there was just amazing," she said.

Through sheer will, she battled back to the top five in the rankings, all the while trying to hide food binges from her coaches and even from her family. She says she'd sneak off and gorge herself in cities around the world.

"Food was my friend," she said.

She desperately tried to hide her weight in loose-fitting clothes. But fans and the press took notice. British newspapers chided her about "oversized servings" and said she looked like a "sumo wrestler" and a "hag with a frying pan."

She said the criticism about her looks was hard to take.

"I just realized the time I was away from the sport, a new generation was coming up. And the generation was taller, much stronger, much more powerful, and obviously a lot more attractive," she said. "It wasn't enough to play good anymore, you had to look good, too."

It was then that she realized she needed help to deal with the emotions she had been running from.

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