Pierce Pleases Home Crowd With Straight-Sets Win




PARIS -- Mary Pierce became the first Frenchwoman since 1967 to win the French Open, surviving some nervous moments and missed chances Saturday to beat Conchita Martinez 6-2, 7-5.


A capacity crowd of about 15,000 fans roared in delight when Pierce closed out the victory with a service winner on her third championship point. The crowd included Fran?oise Durr, the last Frenchwoman to win the title at Roland Garros.


Pierce added the women's doubles title Sunday when she teamed up with Martina Hingis to beat Spain's Virginia Ruano Pascual and Argentina's Paola Suarez 6-2 6-4 in the final.


Hingis and Pierce, the third seeds, raced through the opening set but trailed 4-1 in the second before recovering to sweep the final six games and the title. After her singles win, Pierce, whose only other Grand Slam title came at the 1995 Australian Open, accepted the first-place trophy from Martina Navratilova. Durr then kissed Pierce on both cheeks, and the two French Open champions hugged.


"I'll try not to cry," Pierce told the fans in French during the ceremony. "I am very moved. I never thought I would win it. It's my dream that has become reality. It's really unbelievable to have done it here in Paris."


In English, Pierce thanked her family and her boyfriend, Cleveland Indians second baseman Roberto Alomar.


After starting the match slowly, Martinez held serve for leads of 4-3 and 5-4 in the second set. But at 5-5, Pierce reached break point with a sharply angled forehand pass, then put away an overhead for a 6-5 lead.


Fighting nerves by exhaling deeply, Pierce squandered two championship points in the next game, hitting a forehand into the net and a backhand wide. But when Martinez bounced a forehand return into the net on the third championship point, Pierce had the title she has wanted most.


The Frenchwoman raised both arms and grinned, then bit her lower lip as if fighting back tears and buried her head in a towel.


Pierce, 25, has had a strained relationship in the past with French fans, sometimes drawing jeers for lackluster play. But they warmly embraced her this year, even though she was born in Canada, lives in Florida and speaks with an American accent.


The sixth-seeded Pierce earned $575,000 for the title. Martinez, seeded fifth, received $287,500.


Although the focus in the women's final was on Pierce, it was Martinez who looked tight and unsure at the outset. After the Spaniard struggled to hold serve in the first game, Pierce took charge, winning 13 of the next 14 points and five consecutive games.


But Pierce began to show signs of nerves, with more errors creeping into her groundstrokes. After finally closing out the first set on the fifth set point, she fell behind 2-0 in the second set.


Then Pierce's shots began finding the corners again, and she resumed coming to the net, keeping Martinez on the defensive.


"It was a very difficult match for me, especially the second set," Pierce said. "If it had gone to a third set, I don't know what would have happened."


Pierce barely survived the semifinals, cramping from dehydration late in her match against top-seeded Martina Hingis. She caught a break in the final because the weather was cool and hazy, and she seemed fresh at the finish of the 1-hour, 52-minute match.


"She played very well," said Martinez, playing in her first French Open final. "I started playing very badly. I was very nervous. I could not put her under pressure."