In a sport where many players start by age 5 or 6, Mary Pierce trailed far behind her competition in years of experience but was miles ahead in natural ability and desire.
At 10, Pierce enjoyed her first tennis experience. Just six years later, she became a WTA singles champion. As a decade passed from her life-changing introduction, Pierce had entered the Grand Slam winner’s circle at the 1995 Australian Open and would later achieve the ultimate dream by capturing the singles and doubles crowns at the 2000 French Open, her home major.
On Saturday, Pierce becomes the latest player to join a rich French contingency in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, a milestone she never dreamed about reaching. Tennis.com caught up with the Frenchwoman in Newport, Rhode Island to discuss the incredible honor and the current chapter of her life in Mauritius.
How did you find out you were going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and who did you break the news to first?
I was at a friend’s home in Mauritius and I got a phone call from Stan Smith. He told me I’m going to be inducted. Obviously, my friend who was there was the first person I told.
You are joining Amelie Mauresmo in the recent player category, but your name will also be enshrined alongside the likes of French pioneers Suzanne Lenglen and Simonne Mathieu. When you think about that legacy, what does that mean to you?
I think it’s really special. I am very honored to be in the same sentence as those women. It’s a privilege for me and a beautiful story for French women’s tennis. There are courts named after them at Roland Garros so hopefully one day there will also be courts named after Amelie and myself.
Ben Solomon/International Tennis Hall of Fame
Who do you have here with you this weekend to share this experience with?
I’m very excited to share this moment with my family and friends. I could not have done this alone. It’s impossible. My mom and brother are here. I have some coaches that helped me from the very beginning: one of the coaches who saw me play the very first day. One of the coaches that trained me when I was 11 or 12. A friend from school who I discovered tennis with. The strength and conditioning coach who worked with me when I won the Australian Open. So I have a lot of people here who helped me along the way.
You have one of the most diverse backgrounds of any tennis player, with connections to Canada, US and France, who you competed for. You’re now living and coaching in Mauritius. How did that come about?
I met some friends there. They invited me to come visit Mauritius for a holiday and to visit a church there. I went and completely fell in love with the people and the island. The people are very kind. And the church there is everything that I believe and was looking for. My heart just felt a connection.
As someone who loves to travel, where was the last country you visited for the first time?
The first thing that’s popping into my mind is Vietnam, which was last summer.
Your name will forever have beside it now, Tennis Hall of Famer. When you hear that, what’s your first reaction?
It’s just incredible. It’s crazy, I can’t believe it. I’m honored, privileged and it’s humbling. It’s just mind blowing. To think when I started tennis at 10 that I would be here one day, I would have never thought that. It’s really special and very rewarding.