Book Excerpt: 'Getting A Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self'

Tennis star writes about battle with binge eating, depression after stabbing.

ByABC News
January 19, 2009, 1:05 PM

April 15, 2009— -- Former number-one world professional tennis player Monica Seles shares her personal journey, battling depression and coming into her own after a career on the court. This excerpt from "Getting A Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self" was provided by the publisher to ABC News. Her book will be released on April 21.

Watch 20/20's interview with Monica Seles Friday on "20/20" at 10 p.m. ET

For twenty-eight years, I was known as a tennis player. It had been a long time since I played a professional match, but the thought of giving up the security of that label had terrified me. Tennis player. A short, easy description that everyone is familiar with. It's who I was to the outside world and it's what I'd been calling myself for as long as I could remember. But it was time to move forward. I was ready to leave the past behind.

On February 14, 2008, I announced my official retirement from tennis. I'd been playing in exhibitions here and there, but I was tired of waking up every morning wondering if today was the day my foot was going to self-destruct again. When it felt good, I could play the way I had when I was at the top of my game, but when it felt bad, I couldn't walk on it. I spent years debating back and forth in my head whether I had it in me to make another run for the top. I didn't want to do it anymore. I was tired of the debate. I waited so long to make it official because I wanted to be absolutely sure it was the right decision. I wanted it to be on my timetable and I wanted to claim complete ownership over the choice to close that chapter of my life. All the what-ifs about whether I could regain my former glory and win another Grand Slam began to fade away. My life was filling up with things other than tennis; I was feeling more content than ever before and the fear had left me. It took a long time to get to this point, but I knew that I didn't need tennis to define who I was anymore.

At the time of the announcement, I didn't think twice about the date. It just happened to be when my agent, Tony Godsick, released the statement. But it's funny that on a day reserved for lovers, I declared my relationship with professional tennis to be over.

Somebody once told me that tennis is your husband, your boyfriend, your fiancé, and your best friend all rolled into one. It takes up every second of your time, every ounce of your energy, and every thought in your head. It had also been my adolescence, my education, my entry into adulthood, and my ticket to see the world. It had been my entire life and had tested me on every possible level. Somehow I'd come out the other side in one piece. Even better than one piece: I'd come out whole and healthy and strong. While staying out of the public eye, I'd been able to rebuild and fortify my core and I decided to put it to the ultimate test: ballroom dancing in front of millions of people. If I was going to test my newfound inner strength, what better way to do it than by risking total and complete public humiliation on reality television? Dancing with the Stars was my mom's favorite program, so when the opportunity arose to be on it, I gave it some serious thought. I had several strikes against me: two left feet, the inability to wear heels, stage fright, and absolutely zero dance experience. My mission to embrace my fears would be taken to a whole other level. My friends thought I was crazy when I decided to do it: "Monica, you know that you have to actually dance on that show, right?" they asked. "Are you sure you want to do it?" No, I wasn't completely sure, but what did I have to lose? I gave my new favorite answer to every opportunity that life threw my way: "Why not?"

I was paired with Jonathan Roberts, a show veteran who looked as dashing in person as he did when he partnered Marie Osmond, Heather Mills, and Rachel Hunter on television. One of the most patient people I've ever met, Jonathan wasn't fazed by my hips' complete inability to shake. Over and over he painstakingly went through the steps for our first two dances together, the fox-trot and the mambo. I had some prior work obligations, so we couldn't hunker down in the L.A.-based dance studios like the other contestants. Jonathan gamely met up with me all over the place: we practiced in any empty rooms we could nd in Tokyo, Florida, and New York, eight hours a day for four weeks. With one week to go before the show, we headed to L.A., where the filming took place, for last-minute dance step cramming. My inner perfectionist kicked in when, with five days to go, I scheduled our dance sessions for seven in the morning.