It has been twenty years since her victory at Roland-Garros, but the years have not faded Mary Pierce’s memories of 10th June 2000, a day she will always remember as the best day of her career.
RG Legends: Mary Pierce looks back on her victory in 2000
Crowned champion after a fantastic run in 2000, Mary Pierce tells us all about her best career memory.
“The most wonderful moment of my career”
A last forehand return from Conchita Martinez hit the net and Mary Pierce took the match 6-2 7-5, thus clinching the title. Her arms in the air, she slowly walked towards her entourage, as though she were surprised by the outcome. “I couldn’t believe that I’d done it, and then I looked at the spectators, my team, my family, and it was the best moment of my career. The fans helped me a lot, and when I played it was like I wasn’t alone on the court. When I won, it was my tennis dream come true, but it was also for my family, for the fans, for my country. It’s a great honour to win Roland-Garros when you’re French. It’s hard to describe how I felt when I won because it was so incredible. It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for your whole career. It’s years of training, all the suffering, everything you do for 15 years for one moment of victory, glory, reward. It’s extraordinary!”
Dispelling any regrets from 1994
Back in 1994, when she was World No.12, Mary Pierce had finished runner-up at Roland-Garros after losing 6-4 6-4 in the final to World No.2 Arantxa Sanchez, despite having ousted Steffi Graf (No.1) in the semis. It was a huge disappointment for the Frenchwoman, who had dreamt of winning in front of her home crowd and who had sailed through the tournament thus far, dropping just eight games in her run to the final. But a few months later, Pierce was determined not to let another chance to etch her name on a Grand Slam trophy get away and exacted her revenge on Arantxa Sanchez in the final of the 1995 Australian Open. Having finished runner-up in Melbourne in 1997, it seemed like a whole new Mary Pierce stepped out on Philippe-Chatrier court on Saturday 10th June 2000 to play her second final at the Porte d’Auteuil. “A lot had happened since 1994: six years, many tournaments, a lot of experience…”
Spirituality and calm as allies
In 2000, it was a brand-new Mary Pierce that the spectators at Roland-Garros discovered as the tournament progressed. Calm, smiley, she was having fun on the court and was happy to show it. Her new-found faith had transformed her both on and off the court. “During my first-round match, I felt something shift inside me. I thought to myself that perhaps it was my year. I just had a feeling but I didn’t say anything to anyone. With every match, I felt that I was playing better and better. In March 2000, I had become a born-again Christian and I completely changed as a person. Of course, it also affected my tennis. I was much calmer, less stressed, very focused on what I had to do at that moment.”
This new attitude paid off. In the quarterfinals, she defeated Monica Seles in three sets, managing a spectacular trick shot to boot. “The famous between-the-legs shot when I jumped and played a passing shot against Monica. It was a good shot, it was nice!” And in the semis, World No.1 Martina Hingis – who had finished runner-up the previous year – crumpled when faced with the power and precision of the French player, though it did not stop the pair winning the doubles together a few days later!
In the final, the tension was palpable. “But that’s a good sign! It’s not normal if you don’t feel anything when you step out on court for a Grand Slam final.” Against Conchita Martinez, Mary Pierce was on a mission and took control from the outset, though without any trace of panic. Her calm aura never left her, even when she was serving for the match. “I remember match point. I tried to take my time, not think about the score. In my head, I was telling myself a different score, like 30-15 or 15-all, so that I’d play as if it were a normal point.” A normal point…with a Grand Slam title at stake! The second in her career but her first in Paris, in front of her home crowd. “I will never forget that day. It was amazing!”