Tennis legends Monica Seles and Gabriela Sabatini will face each other in a 25th anniversary rematch of their famed 1990 five-set WTA Championship final in the 2015 BNP Paribas Showdown, set for Tuesday, March 10 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Seles leads the career head-to-head 11-3 over Sabatini. In addition to the Seles-Sabatini match, Roger Federer, who last month led Switzerland to their first-ever Davis Cup championship, will face Grigor Dimitrov and headline the annual tennis showcase.
It was November 19, 1990 and the two legendary women’s players were paired against each other in the finals of the season-ending Virginia Slims Championships at Madison Square Garden. After nearly four hours of tennis, the second-seeded Seles, a then 16-year-old from Yugoslavia, outlasted the third-seeded Sabatini 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in front of 17,290 fans. Seles became the youngest player to ever win the tournament and it was the first time two women played a five-set professional match since the 1901 U.S. Nationals in Philadelphia, where Elizabeth Moore defeated Myrtle McAteer, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-2.
"It will be great to be back on the court at Madison Square Garden, where I have so many fun memories from playing the WTA Championships,” said Seles. “The Showdown on World Tennis Day has become another event at The Garden that all of the players want to play so I look forward to an exciting night of tennis with Gaby, Roger and Grigor. It should be a great event."
“New York has a very special place in my heart and to be back at Madison Square Garden will be such a special moment," said Sabatini. "I am very excited that I will see and play Monica again. Throughout my career I loved every time I travelled to New York. I am excited and I will look forward to be part of the World Tennis Day on March 10.”
Sabatini turned that historic 1990 match around by breaking Seles when Seles was serving for the second set at 5-4. Sabatini then held serve and broke Seles again to win the second set.
Sabatini won the third set breaking Seles for 5-3 and serving out that set with an ace. In the fourth set and after saving two set points to break Seles and pull to 4-5, Sabatini was broken herself forcing the fifth set.
In the final set, both were still hitting big serves and ground-stroke winners from deep behind the baseline, but Sabatini had to save triple break point to hold her serve for 1-1. Seles' powerful forehands kept passing Sabatini at the net and, ultimately, kept her pinned to the baseline allowing Seles to capture the championship.
Seles is a former world number one-ranked player and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009. She won nine Grand Slam singles titles, eight before turning 20 years old, and became the youngest-ever French Open champion at the age of 16. She was the year-end world number one in 1991 and 1992, and played her last professional match at the 2003 French Open, but did not officially retire until February 2008.
Sabatini was one of the leading players on the women's circuit in the late-1980s and early-1990s. The Argentine won the women's singles title at the US Open in 1990, the women's doubles title at Wimbledon in 1988, two WTA Year-End Championships in 1988 and 1994, and a silver medal at the 1988 Olympic Games.
Seles competed in the WTA Championships at Madison Square Garden in 1988-1992, 1995-1998 and 2000, making the upcoming BNP Paribas Showdown her eleventh appearance at The Garden. Sabatini will be making her ninth appearance while playing in the season-ending tournament from 1987-1992, and in 1994 and 1995.