Mary Pierce: first Frenchwoman to win the French Open

Mary Pierce

Mary Caroline Pierce (born 15 January 1975) is a retired tennis professional who represented France internationally in team competitions and the Olympics.

She was born in Canada to an American father and a French mother and holds citizenship in all three countries.

Pierce had a difficult relationship with her father, who developed a reputation as an abusive tennis father, threatening and even attacking her as well as others.

Pierce refused to speak with him for a while and even employed two bodyguards to keep him at bay —and the Women’s Tennis Association introduced the “Jim Pierce rule” that made it possible to ban parents and coaches from tournaments— but later, the two were eventually reconciled sometime after she retired from active professional tennis.

Pierce is a born-again Christian. After a loss in the early months of 2000 (before the French Open which she would win), she said she felt “empty and miserable”, but then “I gave my life to Jesus and was born again… things in me changed instantly.”Pierce also credits this change in spiritual direction to her pre-existing friendship with another tennis pro, Linda Wild.

Pierce started playing tennis at the age of ten. Two years after being introduced to tennis, for girls aged 12 and under she was ranked No. 2 in the country.

In April 1989 at a WTA tournament in Hilton Head, Pierce became the youngest American player (before Jennifer Capriati in 1990) to make her debut on the professional tour, aged 14 years and 2 months.

Due to her physicality and aggressive approach, her ball striking was compared to that of Capriati, and she quickly gained a reputation for being one of the hardest hitters on the women’s circuit.

Her dad developed an interest in the sport and became her coach for many years. She won her first WTA Tour singles tournament in July 1991 in Palermo by defeating Sandra Cecchini in the final.

Pierce was an aggressive baseline player, who had a reputation for being one of the hardest hitters on the WTA tour and would dictate a match from the first point.

Her greatest strength was her forehand, which was hit hard and flat and could be used to hit winners from any position on the court.

Her two-handed backhand was similarly hit flat and was used to attack weak second serves and create sharp angles around the court.

Her first serve was powerful, typically being served at 104 mph (167 km/h) and being recorded as high as 116 mph (187 km/h), meaning that she aced frequently.

Pierce also possessed an effective kick serve which was frequently deployed as a second serve, typically averaging 86 mph (138 km/h).

She was one of the most aggressive players on return and could hit return winners at will.

Pierce was briefly engaged to baseball player Roberto Alomar in 1999 and later to Air France pilot David Emmanuel Ades but broke off both engagements.

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