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AMERICAN MORNING

Pro Tennis Player Daniela Hantuchova Fit to a Fault?

Aired June 25, 2003 - 07:42   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: She is one of the world's top tennis players, and 20-year-old Daniela Hantuchova is the talk of Wimbledon right now. Most of the talk, though, is not about her game. It is about her dramatic weight loss.
Daniela is listed at 5 foot 11, 123 pounds. But during the last year, she has slimmed down to a point that many fear is unhealthy. She says the weight loss talk is blown out of proportion, that she is healthy and that she is training hard.

Nick Bollettieri is Daniela's former coach. He joins us from Manchester, Massachusetts. Also from Boca Raton, Florida, Carling Bassett-Seguso, a former pro who battled anorexia and bulimia for years.

Good morning to both of you. Thanks for joining us.

NICK BOLLETTIERI, DANIELA'S FORMER TENNIS COACH: Good morning.

CARLING BASSETT-SEGUSO, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: Good morning.

KAGAN: Nick, I'm going to go ahead and start with you.

BOLLETTIERI: OK.

KAGAN: Daniela is one of your former students, as we pointed out. What do you see when you look at her body and her game?

BOLLETTIERI: Well, I'm very surprised, because Daniela was a young lady that really seemed to be very relaxed within herself, and she always took good care of herself. When I saw the picture of her on Sunday in the paper, in the "Post," I was amazed to see how she has changed her appearance. I haven't seen her for about four months, but she definitely has changed her appearance.

KAGAN: She clearly is a tall, thin athletic girl anyway, but it's just even more so, you would say.

BOLLETTIERI: Absolutely. I mean, she is tall, she is very, very pretty, and she trains very hard. But she was never intense in her training. She was always relaxed in her training. And something seems to have happened since the last time I've seen her in March.

KAGAN: Carling, let's bring you in here. You have been very public about the eating disorder challenges that you've had over the years. When you look at Daniela, do you see signs of trouble? BASSETT-SEGUSO: Well, I definitely see signs of something going on, because to lose that amount of weight, it's just so much pressure. And being in the public eye like that, it's much more emotional than it is physical. And I just think the people around her really need to make her aware of what's going on.

KAGAN: We should point out that we invited Daniela to come on and talk about it. She chose not to. She also in other interviews has insisted that she is fine, that he is just training hard.

Nick, in the tennis world, is there anything that the WTA that the tennis officials can do if they think a player is in trouble?

BOLLETTIERI: I don't think so. I mean, it comes up to the individual. And as Carline just pointed out so correctly, it is more emotional, especially when you're pretty and you're tall and you can play the game. You put all of these together. But the key to the whole situation is the support team that's around Daniela right now. They have to speak about it and they have to address this situation.

KAGAN: Carling, you have you a good perspective on this, because her career is unfolding a lot like yours did, not just as a promising tennis player, but there is all of the extra stuff, the offers to model and do other things in the public eye. Besides being a good tennis player, what is the pressure like in that world to be sexy and just to be a sex symbol?

BASSETT-SEGUSO: Well, I really like what Nick said about the support system. I mean, you have to have the support system around you to be able to maintain the focus and the direction in your career. And I think things got a little bit too crazy in my situation, where Ford Modeling, and then I had my own clothing line and then I, you know, got into the boys and all of these things. And I wanted to be perfect, because you know, the perfection level with me was so high. And I just lost control of what was important. And, you know, the eating disorder became my best friend, and it was the only thing I could control at the time, and then I lost control completely of being able to handle it. And then I just had to step back and really regain what was important.

KAGAN: In fact...

BASSETT-SEGUSO: And it all came down to my feelings.

KAGAN: You got down to as low as 96 pounds, didn't you, at one certain point?

BASSETT-SEGUSO: Right, yes. Yes, and I was completely in denial about it. And when Hantuchova comes out and says she is training hard and she doesn't have a weight problem, it has nothing with the weight. It comes down to control.

KAGAN: And we can sit here and talk about how people can talk to her, but I'm sure people talked to you before you were willing to admit that you had a problem? BASSETT-SEGUSO: Yes. Well, when I lost a dramatic amount, you know, of weight, that's when the press became involved, like it's happening with Hantuchova right now. And that's why it's going to be even more difficult for her, because she's aware of what's going on. And I don't really know what's going on, but I have seen pictures like Nick has, and there is certainly a dramatic weight loss there. And now, it's going to be even more difficult for her, because, you know, so much of it is going to be about her weight.

KAGAN: Do you think -- and just, finally, both of you -- will either one of you have a chance or have access to talk with her? Carling, I think you would be especially effective perhaps, because you've been there and you know what it's like.

BASSETT-SEGUSO: It's funny, because I've done a numerous amount of interviews about Hantuchova since the French Open, since her loss there. And, you know, it's not about me sitting down with her. It's about the people that are around her and supporting her, because those are the people that are with her on a daily basis. And an eating disorder just doesn't happen overnight. It's a progression, and it's a progression to get well again. And so, I mean, I could say something, as other people that's been through it can also. But it really has to be the team around her.

KAGAN: Nick, do you have any access to her as a former student?

BOLLETTIERI: Well, first of all, it definitely is a support team. And the whole thing is, she has to say, hey, I have a problem, or the set of circumstances I'm involved with seem to be going this way and that way. Until she says that, it's very, very difficult. Yes, the support team is important, but it's got to come from Daniela.

And, you know, I remember Carling. She is like my second daughter. And I saw her go through this, unfortunately. She came through it. And now, she's able to speak up, and I think her speaking up to a person like Daniela could make a major impact.

KAGAN: Well, we will be watching. She plays -- Daniela plays today singles and a doubles match at Wimbledon. The public eye, the public spotlight is definitely on her. And we appreciate both of you coming on today to talk about a situation that she says -- we should just wrap it up by saying she says does not exist; that she is just training hard and just working out. But we will be following it. Nick, Carling, thanks for your input today. Appreciate it.

BOLLETTIERI: Yes, thanks a lot. Bye, Carling.

BASSETT-SEGUSO: Thanks a lot.

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