Mary Pierce: "My dreams came true in Paris"
As the last Frenchwoman crowned at Roland-Garros, Mary Pierce still remembers how she felt when she won in 2000, not to mention the two other finals she played, on the courts she first discovered in her teenage years. We sat down for a chat with the French champion.
There's something special in the air at Roland-Garros, don't you think?
"Yes, it's true. When I come to Roland-Garros, I feel at home. I feel happy. I have so many good memories here and I've spent so much time here over the years. It's always a pleasure to come back."
Fifteen years have gone by since you won here. With that perspective, is the memory still as strong? Or has your image of it changed a little as the years have passed?
"No, it doesn't change at all, in fact. It's still a vivid image, in my memories, and I don't think it will every change."
What are the images or the sensations you remember from Roland-Garros?
"I have so many memories at Roland-Garros! The images that come back to me are when I first got here, at the age of 13, to train at the CNE (National Training Centre). I remember my first French Open, when I was 15. There are memories of my first final in 1994. I especially remember when I won, in 2000 - I remember the whole tournament, all those emotions... I remember the final in 2005, what it meant to come back after an injury at the age of 30, when everyone thought I was finished. So all those memories come back to me. There are a lot! And it's great."
You mentioned your final in 2005: during that period, which was a second career of sorts, another very special thing happened with the spectators.
"I think my relationship with the fans changed when I personally changed. When I found the Lord, at age 25, I think the change in me made things different between me and everyone around me. The journalists, the spectators, my fans, my team... And it's true that for me, the emotions I felt on the court are the most amazing memories, they're the most powerful. Centre court packed out, the emotions shared with the fans, the public... The matches that we experienced together, that final in particular, it was extraordinary."
Now for a question that few people can answer: how does it feel to enter the Centre Court on Roland-Garros before a final?
"Lots of things happen at the same time. You have butterflies in your stomach, you feel a lot of things, you try to stay calm and breathe... It's the final, but at the same time you try not to think about the event. You try to tell yourself it's just another match. But then on the other hand, you realise that it actually is the final! You want to give it your all. Actually, when you go onto the court, you need to be able to just savour the moment, focus on the present, not project yourself too much on what could happen or what will happen. That's it, just be as calm and serene as possible."
What about that moment after match point, what did you feel?
"When you win, you just feel so many emotions at the same time. You think to yourself: 'That's it, I did it.' It's a relief too, to have won the match in the end. You say to yourself: 'I can't believe it, it's incredible.' I look towards my team... It's all those years of pain, suffering, sweat and tears, all of that together. You have these flashes of everything you've lived through to experience this exact moment. It's really satisfying. It's the reward for all that work and all those years."
Today, when you see next to your name, "winner of the French Open in 2000," what does that feel like?
It's incredible! (she pauses) It's really incredible for me to think that my name will always be there, written in the history of tennis, and the history of French tennis. My tennis dreams have become a reality."