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Monica Seles's Comeback Will Heat Up US Open

EVER since Monica Seles was forced out of tennis some two years ago by a bizarre courtside assault, the women's game has been in a state of suspended animation - going through the tournament motions but with a sense that something very important was missing.

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In fact, Seles left as the world's top-ranked player. Now she is ready to return. In a weekend press conference at the Special Olympics in New Haven, Conn., she said the United States Open (Aug. 28-Sept. 10) will be her first tournament.

This was great news for the women's draw, the Open, and tennis generally, but it's created a tempest in a teapot. Martina Navratilova, the Women's Tennis Association president, would like to see Seles co-ranked No. 1, presumably alongside Steffi Graf, who collected her sixth Wimbledon title on Saturday by defeating Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.

Navratilova realizes the positive impact Seles's return will have on women's tennis and seems peeved that Graf, Sanchez Vicario, and other top players rejected the co-No. 1 idea. Seles seems content to go in as a wild card, which means she could conceivably face and defeat a top-seeded player, including Graf, in an early round.

The controversy could lend interest to the year's final Grand Slam tournament. Graf is enjoying a terrific year, but Sanchez Vicario is achieving new playing heights. And don't forget that she beat Graf in last year's Open final.

The men's draw has a built-in plot, too, namely whether Andre Agassi can defend his title against Pete Sampras, who won the US Open in 1990 and 1993 and just completed a tour de force at Wimbledon, where he defeated Boris Becker 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2, to become the first American man to win three consecutive Wimbledon titles.

More on high school records

THE Monitor recently reviewed superlative high school sports achievements of the past school year. Pending formal approval, the athletes responsible for these accomplishments will have their names entered in the National High School Sports Record Book. There they will appear alongside the famous, the not-so-famous, and the forgotten.

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Among the famous athletes who grace the high school record book are swimmer Janet Evans (500-yard freestyle), football player Emmitt Smith (career 100-yard games, 45), and basketball stars Cheryl Miller (most points in a game, 105) and Bill Walton (season shooting percentage, 78.3).

Roger Maris, the major league single-season home run king, is also in the book, but for a football accomplishment - most kickoff returns for a touchdown in a game (four for Fargo, N.D., Shanley High School in 1951).

The most prolific high school record setter is Texan Ken Hall, who became known as the Sugar Land Express for his incredible football feats in the early 1950s. He established 17 national records for offense, many of which still stand.

Touching other bases

* The ninth Special Olympics World Games ended in New Haven, Conn., over the weekend with no one sure where the next games in 1999 will be held. Two regions are in contention to host the premier sports event for individuals medically diagnosed as mentally retarded: Baltimore/Annapolis, Md., and the North Carolina cities of Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Durham. While the winter World Games were held in Austria in 1993 and will be in Canada in 1997, the summer World Games have always been in the US.

* Among the publications picking preseason football All-Americans is a surprise: Farming Success. In its September issue, it will name it first all-American farm football team of college players drawn from family farms or ranches. The idea is to recognize athletes who excel despite certain rural challenges, including lesser facilities and coaching in some cases. Then again, a magazine spokesman says, working on a farm can be excellent training. Clearly this is a good year to name an all-farm team, given that the University of Nebraska is the defending national champion.

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