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View Full Version : U.S. OPEN '93; For Pierce, a Tough Day in a Tougher Life


Calvin M.
Dec 4th, 2007, 09:10 PM
(I was going to post this in Blast From The Past to discuss Natalia Baudone and I thought I'd share it with you Pierce fans as well. If you don't recall the U.S. Open '93, Mary went on after this first-round battle to the 4th Round, losing handily to Steffi, who actually teased Pierce after the match. Anyway, a couple of months later, Mary would win Filderstadt, then go on to beat both Sabatini and Navratilova at Madison Square Garden.

Best,

CRM)

September 1, 1993

U.S. OPEN '93; For Pierce, a Tough Day in a Tougher Life
By HARVEY ARATON

There were no Jim Pierce sightings out on Court 17 at the United States Open yesterday, but his presence was nonetheless felt, like a cloud over the head of his tennis-playing daughter.

Watching Mary Pierce battle her opponent, herself and the specter of her banished father was at times almost painful, a fascinating psychodrama stretched out over 3 hours 12 minutes. But just when Pierce seemed on the verge of total meltdown, letting the anticipation of victory leaden her fluid and powerful strokes, Natalia Baudone served up exactly what the 18-year-old child of the soap-opera family needed. The Italian baseliner, ranked 90th in the world, double-faulted on match point to hand Pierce a 6-0, 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-5) victory and an escape into the second round.

By that time, Pierce had failed on five match points, failed to serve out the match at 5-2, 5-4 and 6-5 in the third set. By that time, she was reacting to every mis-hit with sagging shoulders and plaintive looks to her entourage. By that time, a match that began under the bright afternoon sun and with a 29-minute first set was being played under a darkening sky, matching the mood of the Pierce contingent that included her mother, Yannick, her new coach, Angel Giminez, and a bodyguard who prowled the grounds to make sure the estranged dad had not slipped into the crowd.

This was Pierce's first match since she and her mother went public in a Sports Illustrated article with charges that Jim Pierce had physically abused them and threatened their lives in the wake of Jim Pierce's firing as Mary's coach and Yannick Pierce's filing for divorce.

Jim Pierce, who had already been banned from all Women's Tennis Association's events, was issued a restraining order, barring contact with his wife and daughter.

"I decided to do that because I felt everywhere I was going everybody would want to talk about it," said Mary, referring to the topic of her volatile father. "This way, I felt I would do the article and everyone will know. They will know what is going on.

"I got it over with, and that way we can turn the page. I am glad about the decision I made. This way, I can start focusing more on my tennis."

The unfortunate Pierce saga built over a period of years during which the father shaped his daughter's career. In the magazine article, she said she and her mother were so concerned about her father's threats, that they had been using pseudonyms in hotels on the tennis tour.

When Mary Pierce played in a tournament in Mahwah, N.J., earlier this summer, ticket takers were given photos of Jim Pierce, just in case he attempted to attend. At least a dozen security people scanned the Court 17 stands before and during yesterday's match, and a half-dozen pushed through curious fans as they escorted Pierce to the locker room after the match. Different Sound From the Stands

For her entire career, Pierce's matches have been marred by incidents involving her father, the least of which were usually the taunts he would direct at her and her opponents. Yesterday, there were only gentle calls of encouragement from Giminez, who used to coach Gabriela Sabatini, and her family.

Asked if it was strange not to hear her father's booming voice, Pierce brushed aside her long blond hair and smiled. "It is not strange," she said. "I mean, it is nice. It is O.K."

She said that she was not afraid her father would show up and create an incident. She said that the fans, cramming for a look at the tennis prodigy who told the world she had been abused, did not make her nervous.

"No, I don't think she was nervous because she won the first set, 6-0," said Giminez. "But people are so much focused on the situation, it's tough for her to stay relaxed." Errors and Bad Luck

As Baudone toughened in the second set, Pierce became visibly tightened. Her unforced errors, which would total 72 for the match, were increasing like a pinball score. Every tough return Baudone had the audacity to make -- including a stunning forehand pass on the run on match point in the second set -- seemed to infuriate Pierce. Three broken strings that resulted in three lost points added to the image of Mary Pierce, victim.

Even when Baudone's serve deserted her and she double-faulted her way into that 2-5 third-set hole, Pierce looked nothing like a favorite in the home stretch. By the time she was broken at 15 for 6-all, she looked destined to leave the Open in tears.

Baudone even held leads of 3-1, 4-2 and 5-4 in the final tie breaker, but Pierce's forehand drop shot set up a volley into the open court for 5-5. A service winner gave her a sixth match point. Then Baudone handed over that last elusive point.

Giminez conceded his job would have been made much harder had Pierce not survived this match. So much has happened in her life that has held back this extremely talented, if also fragile, player. "So many things going on," said the coach. "Not with her, but against her.