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For Pierce, It Is a Case of Mind Over Matter
By STEVE POPPER
August 31 2003
The New York Times

In her mind, Mary Pierce is back among the top players in the world, back to the lofty place in the ranking that she occupied before her body began to fail. In her mind, she is still No. 3 in the world and a threat in every Grand Slam event.

The tendinitis in her right rotator cuff, which forced her to retire in the fourth round of the United States Open three years ago and sent her on a downward spiral with back and ankle problems, is gone. The weight fluctuations and the controversy over her use of the supplement creatine have faded.

But physically, Pierce is unsteady. She still contends that her body does not do what her mind wants.

Yet with each passing round of this year's Open, Pierce's body and mind are working more closely, and she may soon have to concede that her possibilities are unlimited.

Pierce breezed through the third round yesterday with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Shinobu Asagoe of Japan. She advanced to the fourth round for the second consecutive Grand Slam tournament after doing so at Wimbledon.

"I don't want to say yes or no," she said when asked if she was strong enough to win this event. "I'm just happy to be healthy and competing and feeling better. I'm feeling better and better all the time. I'm playing better.

"In tennis you never know what can happen. I'm not going to count myself out, and I'm not going to put pressure on myself when I'm still in the process of working my way back where I'd like to be at. I'm happy with what I'm doing.''

She added: "Mentally I'm there. My body is not following. There are things I want to do and I'm still limited at times. That's where patience comes in. The mental part is there from experience and maturity."

Experience is something that Pierce has, having seen ups on the court and downs almost every step of the way. Pierce won two Grand Slam singles titles - the Australian Open in 1995 and the French Open in 2000 - but most of the attention focused on her problems - from her father's infamous tirades to her off-and-on relationship with the baseball player Roberto Alomar to her own health issues.

Pierce may have doubts, but her opponents would argue that she is just as strong as ever.

After losing to Pierce in the second round at the Open, Jelena Dokic said: "She hits it harder than anyone, for sure. I mean, some of the shots she hit I didn't see."

After being forced out of action and out of the spotlight, Pierce is enjoying her time back in the public eye.

"I want it more," Pierce said. "It means a lot more to me. It's kind of funny where before I thought I did want it, but it's just different. I appreciate it more every day, the process it takes to go through, the training. I just enjoy it.

"I feel like I really love the life that I have. I love what I do. It's a job and I hate to pack and go away from my family and friends and dogs, but I wouldn't trade it. Having injuries, being home and not able to play, I really missed it."

Now she is relishing the small moments. She keeps a journal, and her promising results this year represent a chance for a happy ending to the autobiography she says she will someday write. But for now, the day-to-day victories are almost as important as the possibilities.

The thought of another Grand Slam victory after her midcareer crisis intrigues her.

"Do I need it?" she said. "No. Do I want it? Yes. Just winning a Grand Slam tournament is amazing, and what motivates me is winning. To win another one, I'd probably have a breakdown on the court. It would make it that much sweeter, what I've gone through in the last couple of years. If that happens it would be great. If not, I can look back and know I had a pretty good career."
 

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"The mental part is there from experience and maturity."

This is the key. Without that background of previous Slam titles, I don't see how Mary could have gone through these last years of injury piling upon injury and kept on trying. Even with that background, it's so incredibly hard to come back when the game keeps evolving, the competition keeps getting stronger and stronger.

I respect and admire Chanda and Mary so much for the way they keep going and going despite formidable physical obstacles. They are inspirations to people in every walk of life, not just in tennis. And of course, I hope Monica, too, is watching Mary this week, and planning and working for the day she too can return to the sport she loves.

:hearts: Mary, Chanda, Monica, and you, too, Lindsay! It's hard but it's so worthwhile! :kiss:
 

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GO Mary!
 

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I totally concur with this. As I keep on pointing out, Mary was World No.3 after winning at Roland Garros in 2000, and No.4 after Wimbledon where she was playing injured. She only played one more tournament that year, (the US Open, where she had to retire in her last 16 match), having pulled out of all the summer hardcourt tournaments. The next two seasons were stop-start affairs, interrupted by more serious injuries and an obvious inability to train properly which resulted in a slump in form and confidence, and only a fraction of usual tournaments played. I often wonder what would have happened to Mary's career without those injuries, as she really was at her best when they struck. I'm so glad she stuck at it when it would have been SO easy to retire, but I suppose she was spurred on by the memory of her fitness and form when injury first struck... Getting back with Sven Groeneveld at after the French was crucial to Mary's turnaround. I feel she'd reached an impasse with her form and fitness and needed someone she trusted and with good personal history to guide her back up the rankings. She said after her surprising upturn in form at Wimbledon that she still needed six months before getting back to the shape she'd like, and she should know! I saw her in Toronto and her obvious fitness and serenity was a revelation, a real throwback to 2000. Yes, she still has some way to go, but her progress in just under three months has been inspiring and extremely encouraging!!
 

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It's nice to see Mary believing in herself again. She's so talented. I mean the shots she's been hitting lately have been on fire. She's also looking good, a little more fitness and she's going to be a HUGE threat.

I thought it was really sweet when she said she'd like breakdown if she won another slam :)

Allez Mary!!
 

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It would be a real trip to see Mary win this thing! But I just can't see her beating The Retrieval Machine.
 

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Is that Myskina?
 

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eta psi said:
Wouldn't it be just wonderful if Mary wins this USO? We just have to pray her body keeps obeying her mind.

I agree ! It would be soooo great :bounce:
 

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with her power game she is a dangerous floater and the way she is playing the top players will have to be playing well on the day to beat her. she is moving much better now than earlier in the ear but the top players will beable to move her around enough but imo they have to be playing well to do so. mary has a good serve and is consistent with it and with her big groundies backing it up even the top players will have trouble breaking her serve.
 

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Mary is just such a sweet girl! It will be tough for her to win against JHH if she does get past Myskina. But I think at next year's AO, she will be a big threat.
 

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janie said:
"The mental part is there from experience and maturity."

This is the key. Without that background of previous Slam titles, I don't see how Mary could have gone through these last years of injury piling upon injury and kept on trying. Even with that background, it's so incredibly hard to come back when the game keeps evolving, the competition keeps getting stronger and stronger.

I respect and admire Chanda and Mary so much for the way they keep going and going despite formidable physical obstacles. They are inspirations to people in every walk of life, not just in tennis. And of course, I hope Monica, too, is watching Mary this week, and planning and working for the day she too can return to the sport she loves.

:hearts: Mary, Chanda, Monica, and you, too, Lindsay! It's hard but it's so worthwhile! :kiss:
So true :bounce: I really admire the "old" guns. They stuck around despite all the injuries and hardships :) I guess that's what makes a true champion after all :worship:
 
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