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Mary Pierce
Dec 30th, 2002, 03:59 AM
Refreshing face of the women's game
NZ HERALD
By TERRY MADDAFORD

Mary Pierce does not get hung up on numbers.

The French star and main attraction at this week's ASB Classic refuses to dwell on her ranking.

"Whatever it is, it is just a number," the 27-year-old said yesterday in a break between two practice sessions.

And in another refreshing revelation, she said she did not worry too much about winning or losing.

"It's more about having fun. It is not worth worrying about. You never know what is going to happen. You can be out in the first round."

Of one thing she is certain: "I don't get nervous any more."

Not even when facing the Williams sisters or other big-hitters?

"They hit the ball hard, but I've still beaten Venus Williams a few times. I haven't beaten Serena. Yet.

"We all have good days and bad days, but it is encouraging to see a player such as Kim Clijsters doing well."

Pierce, in Auckland and very much part of the "Glam Slam" image that tournament officials are keen to project, is likely to follow Anna Kournikova as the dangerous unseeded floater in the 32-strong draw.

Kournikova surprised some in reaching the quarter-finals last January. Pierce could do at least as well.

Ranked 52nd following a long injury break - her last match was against Argentine (and Classic fifth seed) Paola Suarez in the first round of the US Open in August - Pierce meets German Angelika Roesch, ranked 81st, in the first round.

Victory could book her a return with Suarez. The Argentine plays world No 123, Italian Maria Camerin, who won a place in the main draw here following her success in November's ITF tournament in Pittsburgh.

Apart from a one-hour transit stop some years ago, it is Pierce's first visit to Auckland - one she intends to make the most of.

Why Auckland?

"Why not? I've been 13 years on the tour and it continues to be exciting. It is fun to meet different people and go to different places. It is the opportunity to play somewhere else."

Like others who use Auckland as their first stop on their new season's schedule, Pierce said having the chance to play on the same surface and with the same balls as the Australian Open was a "definite factor" in her decision to play here.

"I know what it takes to be successful and I'm going to give it my best again," Pierce said. "The [women's] game has improved a lot. There are at least 10 girls capable of winning. It is more difficult than it was in the past."

The ASB Bank Tennis Centre is a far cry from Roland Garros, where she won the French Open in 2000, and Melbourne Park, where she won Australian Open glory five years earlier.

But the centre could hold its own magic for Pierce as the place to relaunch her sometimes injury-dogged career.

And like Kournikova before her, she seems set to attract big crowds in a week of top-class tennis.

Mark Spruce
Dec 30th, 2002, 04:58 AM
Thank you again

Mark