Roland Garros Royalty: Mary Pierce, 2000 French Open champion
More than 20 years ago, Mary Pierce made the history books as she became the first and only French women’s player to win the French Open in the Open Era.
Pierce’s dominance at Roland Garros in 2000 should not have come as a surprise to anyone given her remarkable form coming into Paris.
Just a month before the French Open, Pierce marched to one of the biggest titles of the clay-court swing, losing just 12 games across her five matches to win the Family Circle Cup in South Carolina.
On her way to victory, she thrashed nine-time Grand Slam champion Monica Seles in the semi-finals 6-1 6-1, and outplayed clay specialist Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario for the title 6-1 6-0. A remarkable achievement.
The 25-year-old continued her impressive clay form into her home tournament at Roland Garros, conceding just 13 games across her four matches as she raced into the quarter-finals for only the second time in 11 attempts.
However, her road to French Open glory was about as tough as it could have been for the 25-year-old, with Lindsay Davenport the only early casualty out of the top seeds in Paris.
First up in the quarter-finals was third seed and three-time French Open champion Monica Seles, eager to avenge her defeat across the pond just six weeks earlier.
Seles took the opening set 6-4 to put one foot in the semi-final, but the Frenchwoman wasn’t done yet. Pierce battled back to level before clinching a tight third set to book her place in the semi-final 3-6 6-3 6-4.
Pierce faced an even bigger test in the semi-final as she took on World No 1 Martina Hingis. The 25-year-old was hugely impressive yet again, taking the opener 6-4 before racing into a 5-3 lead in the second.
However, Hingis battled back and fended off a match point to force a final set decider. Pierce’s mental strength was tested yet again, though she finally closed out the match 6-4, 5-7, 6-2.
For the second time in her career, Pierce was in the French Open final and once again, she faced a Spaniard.
Rather than Arantxa Sánchez Vicario as it was in 1994, it was Conchita Martinez who stood between Pierce and a first Grand Slam title on home soil – a Slam she wanted more than any other.
Although Martinez eliminated Pierce in the second round in ’99, Pierce was a cut above as she breezed through the first set 6-2.
The second set proved more problematic as Pierce trailed 2-0 and served to stay in the set at 4-5, though the Frenchwoman roared home to clinch the title 6-2, 7-5.
As with compatriot Yannick Noah 17 years earlier, Mary Pierce had made history. She raised her arms in the air and slowly walked towards her camp, struggling to comprehend what she had just achieved.
“I don’t know what to say. There are no words to express how I feel,” Pierce told French TV in her on-court interview.
“It was just incredible. This is something I’ll never, ever forget my whole life.”
In an interview with the official Roland Garros website in 2020, Pierce reminisced about the ‘most wonderful moment’ of her career 20 years on.
“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,” said Pierce.
“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.”
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