By David Rosenberg
Photo by Nicolas Luttiau/L’Equipe
One of the hardest hitting players of her generation, Mary Pierce stormed to the French Open final in 1994, demolishing defending champion Steffi Graf in the semis. She would reach six more grand slam finals during her career, winning twice: at the 1995 Australian Open and the one that mattered most to her, the 2000 French Open. In 2005, Pierce finished the year as the fifth ranked player (her career high was No. 3), but two injuries in 2006 were eventually responsible for her retirement from the tour. We caught up with Pierce at the BNP Paribas Open, where she is working for BBC Radio, which produces the livestream for tournament radio, to see what she’s been up to since we last saw her on tour.
BNP Paribas Open: You’re working for BBC and the tournament livestream radio here. How has that been?
Mary Pierce: Well, I did some work for them before at the French Open and Wimbledon last year and I really enjoyed it; I love it. It’s a lot of fun actually. The BBC has a really good team and the journalists are really great and they make it fun and easy for me. I’ll probably do a little bit at Wimbledon again this year.
BNPPO: How has it been to come back on the tour here at the BNP Paribas Open? You were a semifinalist here in 2000.
Pierce: It’s nice to come to tournaments because you can see people you haven’t seen in a while; I love this tournament. It’s so beautiful here.
BNPPO: Catch us up on your life since we last saw you play in 2006. Maybe that’s too broad of a question?
Pierce: Oh, gosh! I got my injury in 2006 and I spent a good three years just trying to rehab my knee to come back and try to be able to play again; I wasn’t able to do that.
BNPPO: Why? Was the injury too severe?
Pierce: It was very strange. The doctors and everyone I saw said, “Your knee looks fine you shouldn’t be having any pain.” But I was still having pain. No one could tell me why. I did everything I could possibly do and I tried to come back and play again and that didn’t work.
I had been to Mauritius in 2005 to visit a church there and I just fell in love with the people and the church and the island so in 2008, when I couldn’t play anymore and I was tired of rehabbing, I decided I wanted to go there. So I moved there and took a few trips around Africa, which I had always wanted to do.
In 2010 I started coaching my friend Frederique’s two Mauritian kids [Emmanuel and Amaury de Beer], who were 11 and 14 at the time. That takes up a lot of my time: coaching them six days a week, planning their programs, traveling to tournaments with them.
BNPPO: How are they doing?
Pierce: Emmanuel just started playing ITF tournaments this year and he just got his first ITF points and he’s ranked around 1,400 and Amaury has been playing ITFs for a couple of years; she got up to around 420 when she was 15 and got an injury and was out for about seven months, she cracked her sternum and she’s back now and she’s around 400 or 350.
Read more in our interview with Mary Pierce AFTER THE JUMP.
BNPPO: What’s it like living on Mauritius?
Pierce: It’s completely different than America. It’s Africa. You have a beautiful island, it has amazing beaches and water… it is definitely different as far as culture, food and lifestyle.
BNPPO: When you look back at your career, what are some of the moments you think about?
Pierce: I’m so busy I don’t have time to think about those things! [Laughs.] I have a lot of great memories from playing on the tour and my life as a professional tennis player was absolutely amazing – I loved it. It was also very hard. A lot of hard work but just amazing moments: my first grand slam final at the French in 1994 when I was 19; winning the Australian Open; my first Grand Slam in 1995. Obviously, wining the French was just the highest point of my career; making the WTA Championships, beating Graf twice in the same year  when she was ranked number one. I think also the French 2005 was a very strong and meaningful tournament for me [Pierce made the final].
BNPPO: Why was that?
Pierce: Because I was 30 years old and I think everyone thought I was pretty much done. I had had an injury and I had dropped to about 300 in the world and I had already won the French Open so everyone thought “Oh, she’s finished,” but I still believed in my heart that I wasn’t finished and I had something left in me and something great to do.
BNPPO: 2005 was an amazing year for you.
Pierce: Yeah, from the French on I only lost 4 matches, won two tournaments, made the final of the US Open, made the WTA Championships.
BNPPO: That must have made the injury in 2006 even harder to deal with.
Pierce: I started the year off tearing a tendon in my right foot in February and I was out for six months and then I had just started coming back and three months later I was feeling pretty good just getting back into the swing of things and that’s when I hurt my knee.
So it was a bit tough. I think it was maybe more frustrating when I hurt my foot because if I would have done well the first half of the year, I could have maybe been number one if I had the same kind of results because I had no points to defend. But the knee injury that was another thing; it just kind of happened and there’s nothing you can do about it.