Mary Pierce: three passports, two grand slams, one overbearing father | Tumaini Carayol

The French-American-Canadian who won at Roland Garros 20 years ago could turn opponents into spectators, but despite her talent it was a pushy parent that often stole the show

Twenty years ago, Mary Pierce was being dragged across the court. As she chased Monica Seles’s blows from side-to-side during their 2000 French Open quarter-final match, one vicious drive volley flew straight towards her. Pierce instinctively leaped into the air and connected with the ball between her legs, which lobbed high over Seles’s head and landed perfectly inside the court. The shot has been replayed millions of times.

For most players, Pierce’s famous tweener would have been a great omen of things to come. But tennis fans had spent a decade as attuned to Pierce’s demeanour as the actual strokes. The question was always, after all she had been through, if she was relaxed and loose enough to ever fly. As the crowd roa red, the answer came: Pierce sprinted the width of the court in glee and a smile glossed her face. A few days later she had beaten the world No 3, Seles, the No 1, Martina Hingis, and Conchita Martínez, the No 5, and become the first French singles champion at Roland Garros since 1983.

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