By Jerry Magee
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
July 12, 2005
Mary Pierce is to be presented the event's "Loyalty Award" during the Acura Classic for her longtime association with a tournament beginning July 31 at the La Costa Resort and Spa.
From Aix en Provence, France, where she was representing France in its semifinal Fed Cup match against Spain, Pierce said being named the award's winner has a special significance for her.
"It's not just for my forehand and backhand but for me as a person," she said. "I just love this tournament. The venue. The resort. The weather. Everything there. It's fantastic."
The award was instituted in 1998 with Nathalie Tauziat the first winner. Subsequent winners have been Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Venus Williams, Conchita Martinez and Lindsay Davenport, the defending champion in the $1.3 million event.
Pierce, 30, is experiencing her most rewarding season since 2000, when she was ranked No. 7 on the WTA Tour. She's currently No. 13, but was a finalist in the French Open, losing to Justine Henin-Hardenne, and a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon, where she held five set points in the second set before surrendering to eventual champion Venus Williams.
"I have thought about it," Pierce said of how close she came to extending Williams to a third set, "but I'm not into woulda-coulda-shoulda. Everything happens for a reason in the big scheme of things. But I'm very happy with my game. I think I'm a better player than I've ever been because of my experience and knowing the game. I really feel my best tennis is ahead of me." Pierce, winner of the 1995 Australian Open and the 2000 French Open, has won 16 WTA Tour events. Her best finish at La Costa was in 1998, when she lost in the final to Davenport.