Join Date: Oct 2004
Don't count me out, says Pierce(great article!)
PARIS, May 20 (Reuters) - Frenchwoman Mary Pierce does not feature among the list of favourites for the French Open. The 2000 champion insists, however, that she should not be underestimated.
"Something unique happens when I'm at Roland Garros," Pierce said. "I'm able to play my best tennis when I'm there. It's my favourite tournament."
Pierce, 30, first played the Paris grand slam in 1990 and has missed it only once since, in 2001. She will enter it for the 15th time this year.
"That's a lot," she said. "I can't believe it."
The Canada-born Pierce, who lives in Florida and speaks French with an American accent, had a difficult relationship with the French public for years but that all changed with her 2000 triumph.
Much more relaxed than she used to be, she is now popular wherever she plays.
That showed last week in Rome, where she was cheered on by the Foro Italico crowd as she gave Russian Maria Sharapova a tough time for two hours before bowing out 6-7 4-6 in a tight third-round match.
"I was moved by the reaction from the crowd," she said.
"I felt in Rome that I was playing better tennis than I was in 2000," added Pierce, who now often takes on players more than 10 years her junior.
"The difference is that the competition today is a lot tougher than it was then."
Asked about Sharapova's attitude, sometimes perceived as slightly arrogant, Pierce was diplomatic.
"I wouldn't say she's not mature but she is young and lacks experience," she said. "But then, what was my attitude when I was her age? My brother says I was a bit awkward."
Pierce made headlines in her younger days because of the fierce clashes between her father Jim, who was her coach, and the sport's officials.
More approachable than when she was a teenager, the world number 24 does not even mind that compatriot Amelie Mauresmo, preparing for the French Open with the help of former champion Yannick Noah, is getting all the attention in France.
"It's quite normal that people are more interested in Amelie and Yannick," she said. "Yannick has a lot of experience. He can help her a lot."
It is unlikely that Pierce will win in Paris again this year but her fans point out that she has a habit of winning a grand slam every five years.
After the Australian Open in 1995 and the French Open in 2000, now is the time for another triumph, they say.
Last edited by Moscovici.et.al; May 20th, 2005 at 12:19 PM.