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Pierce: "Objective: the Olympic Games"

Emmanuel LANGELLIER
 
 
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Monday 26 January 2009 at 14h16
On site at the Open Gaz de France where she is a match commentator for the T.V., Mary Pierce stopped by for a chat.  Off the tour since October 2006 due to a serious left knee injury, the Frenchwoman is hoping to play in the Beijing Olympics this year.  

Mary, you played in the final at the Open Gaz de France thirteen years ago against Steffi Graf.  Is it possible that we'll be seeing you on Coubertin's central court next year?
It's likely.  I hope so.  I saw my surgeon three days ago and he was optimistic.  It looks like my knee is almost fully healed.  He is happy with the progress and I hope to be able to start training and competing again soon.  So yes, I think I should be playing next year.

You've been off the tennis courts since the Linz tournament in October 2006.  What are your plans for the coming weeks?
I had an MRI and everything looks good.  My surgeon wants to see me again in a month.  Meanwhile, I'll be following a recovery regimen to strengthen my leg and my left knee. 

What are your goals?
I'd love to be able to play in the Olympics in Beijing (August).  I turned 33 on January 15.  The Olympics are only held once every four years and 2012 is a long way off.  This year will probably be my last chance to play in the Olympics, so I'd love to go to China.  Before, I'd like to play a bit on clay though.  Playing this year's Roland Garros would be awsome.  But, it's impossible to say for sure when I'll be back.  It's a bone injury, and they are always complicated.

How are you training?  Are you at least able to hit a few balls?
No, not at all.  I run in the pool, I work out in the gym, and do exercises for my knee.  I still don't have the green light to run or play.  I hope that won't last long! (Laughs).  I'm working in the United States right now.  I've been back in Florida since December at the Bolletieri.  My family is there and the weather is beautiful!

You've been off the tour for more than a year.  You must be getting a little impatient...
Yes, sometimes.  There are time when I wonder if I'll be able to play again.  After the operation, I wasn't even sure it'd be able to walk the same!  But now, I'm walking like beofre and it feels good.  I can't wait to run.  But, I will admit that it's sometimes pretty tough.  The injury was pretty serious and there were two ligaments involved: the meniscus and a bone endema.  Everything is O.K. now except for the bone.  It is not yet back to 100%.  But, I am persevering and hope it heals quickly.    

You've been off the tour for a year.  Has the break allowed you to do certain things that are impossible when you are on the circuit?
It's been interesting because when I got injured I told myself:  "This is great!  I'm going to have so much free time.  I'm going to take it easy physically and have lots of time to do something else."  But, I also wondered if I would get bored.  Fortunately, that hasn't been the case.  Physical therapy is like training you know!  There are two sessions a day, and sometimes I spend eight hours a day with the physical therapist... It consumes a lot of time and energy.  And when you're injured, it's important to stay mentally tough.

In your own mind, are you thinking more about your upcoming comeback or are you already thinking about life after tennis?
I'm thinking about both.  Right now I'm more focused on tennis and returning to the tournaments.  At the same time, I'm also starting to think about what I'll do after my tennis career.  I guess now is a good time to start thinking about that a bit.

You wouldn't be interested in coaching France's Fed Cup team, would you?
(bursts out laughing) If the players want me, why not?  That would be a big honor for me.  But, there are so many responsibilities.  Could I do handle them all?  I don't know.  There might me a few more things I need to learn before playing that role.  Players choose their captain, and if they wanted me, I wouldn't say now.  When?  I have no idea.  Maybe next month, maybe in ten years.  Maybe never ! (laughs).

The girls fought hard last weekend, but were defeated by China 3-2…
They hung tough until the end.  They were down 0-2, and it's not easy to come back.  Sure, it's a bit tougher without Marion (Bartoli), Amélie (Mauresmo), Tatiana (Golovin).  But, I wasn't there either.  Without those players, we knew it would be tough against China.  It's a shame they lost.  It was close. 

What did you think about Martion Bartoli's absence?
It's hard to say.  For me, I care so much about playing for France.  France did so much for me when I came here thirteen years ago.  My father had told me to play for France.  It's hard to not want to represent our country, to play in the Olympic Games.  I'm only speaking about me.  There is no bigger event, and it's only held every four years.  Not wanting to take part in that would be impossible for me.  The same goes for Fed Cup.  It's different from the other tournaments we play all year.  We're part of a team, we're together and we encourage each other.  I love it!  But, then again, Marion's case is different from mine.  She is with her father who has done everything for her and has been her only coach.  They want to focus uniquely on her and not participate in team events.  It's a shame, but I do think you've got to try to understand her point of view as well.  To make decisions like she has, she mush have some very good reasons.  

Were you surprised by her decision?
No, I can't say I was surprised.  But, it is a shame.  I think she may be missing out on a lot, but I can also understand her decision.  In fact, I don't really know her well enough to judge.  I have no idea of the National Tennis Federation supported her, etc.

If you were the Fed Cup capitain, how would you handle the Bartoli case?
(laughs) Very good question!  I would have to talk about it with the other girls and come to an agreement with them.  I would not want to make a decision that doesn't involve all the players because that could create an unpleasant atmosphere.  It's important that the team act as one.

Amélie Mauresmo is now 18 in the world, but played some good tennis against Anna Chakvetadze.  Do you thing she's on the right track?
Amélie is always on track!  She's a champion, has been number 1 in the world, and has won Grand Slams.  I don't see why she would be struggling with confidence.  She's playing well and is in great shape.  Mentally though she's a bit different from me in that she needs lots of matches to find her confidence.  For me, as long as I'm feeling good on the practice courts and I know I'm at 100% physically, I'm ready to go!  I watched her match Friday and she played a great first set.  She just lacks matches right now and needs to play.  She'll find her top form again I think.

What do you think of the comebacks from Linsay Davenport and Monica Seles'?
It's great!  It's awsome for the game.  You don't see many players today come back on tour after having a baby.  I think it's great seeing Lindsay back on tour.  That photo of her son in her arms with her trophy is beautiful.  Those are going to be great memories for her and her son later.   It's also great for Monica.  She's a player I appreciate so much. I know she's been through a lot in her life.  And the fact that she wants to comeback is fabulous.  She's such a fighter on the court and never gives up.  She's really fit now, and that'll help her as she starts playing again.  I could definitely see her back among the best players in the world.  

You got along well with Martina Hingis.  Do you have any news from her?
Yes, we won the Roland Garros doubles title in 2000 and played together that whole season.  When she retired, I didn't hear from her very much.  But, I was happy to see her comeback on the tour.  And I wasn't surprised with her strong results after that comeback.  But I haven't heard from her since she retired the second time.  As for the cocaine doping charge, I find that very strange and very shocking.  When I heard about it, I thought it was a joke!  I was just so shocked because the Martina that I knew would have never done that.  I have no idea what really happened.   

Is there doping in tennis?
I have to say yes because some players have already been "caught."  Personally though I've never seen or heard anything about it.  No one ever offered me anything.  I'm very scared of performance enhancing drugs.  An olympic gold medal does not justify putting your life in danger.  I have a hard time making sense of athletes who dope.  I guess that some are willing to do anything just to win.  It's a shame…

Another controversial subject: internet bettting.  Has anyone ever offered you money to lose?
No!  That would be just ridiculous.  But, I have heard stories about how players can earn more money by betting than from tournament earnings.  It's a shame if that is true… I think it tarnishes the sport.  For me, going on court is a pleasure.  Giving your all and sharing that with fans is rewarding enough in itself.

This year's Open Gaz de France (2008) has been marked by a strong showing from Eastern European players.  They made up three of the four semifinals.
It is a bit funny to see all the players whose names I can't pronounce!  In most cases, I don't know how they play or what they look like.  But, I think it's good for tennis and their countries as well.  Sports and tennis is taking root in other countries and that's great.

Which players do you see doing well this season (2008)?
Well, there's Ivanovic.  We'll be seeing more of her this year.  As for the French players, I'm very happy for Virginie (Razzano), who won her first tournament last year and then won her second right away.  That is tough.  She played a good match against Marion (Bartoli) on Friday and I hope she'll keep improving.  She's got a very solid game and is becoming stronger on the key points.  It's also going to be interesting to see what Amélie (Mauresmo) will do this season.  Can Bartoli stay in the top 10 this season if she stays injury-free?  Then there si Tatiana (Golovin), whose starting to have good results regularly.  She's so talented.  

Today, is women's tennis more interesting than men's tennis today?
I think women's tennis has been more exciting than men's tennis for a while now.  But, I do think that men's tennis is becoming more interesting with Djokovic and Nadal able to challenge Federer, who has finally lost a few matches!  He was invincible for a while.

Translated by Timothy Aaron Priest

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