Bollettieri, however, thought that Mary had been getting tangled up in strategy in recent months, hanging behind the baseline and waiting out points instead of taking the ball on the rise and driving it. "You might get mad at me for saying this, dear," Bollettieri told her that Friday, "but you aren't too bright on the court. You might even be unintelligent. So let's just get up to the baseline and whack the——out of every ball."
And that is what Pierce did during the French fortnight. She moved into the semifinals without dropping more than two games in any match, and her total of 10 games lost through the semis was the lowest of the Open era.
Whether it was her success on the court that led to her relaxed attitude off it, or the other way around, Pierce seemed remarkably carefree in Paris. She skipped between points, laughing after she made an error. She dined in the cafés of Montmartre with relatives—her mother, Yannick; her brother, David; an aunt; and some cousins. She made regular visits to a Häagen-Dazs on the Champs Elysée. "I'm calm," she said. "I'm so happy. Of course, I'm glad I'm winning, but it's not like it means everything. I'm healthy. Everything in my life is good."
Jim followed Mary's progress in Paris from his home in Delray Beach, Fla., where he sometimes gives lessons at the Macci International Tennis Academy. Mary pays Jim's rent and provides him with spending money, and the two had something of a rapprochement around Christmas, when Mary and David surprised Jim with a visit. But Jim and Mary have not spoken since March.
Reached by telephone last Friday, Jim at first asked to be paid for an interview and then said, "She's only doing what I always told her to do." When interviewed by NBC, Jim, after again demanding to be paid, took a stab at Bollettieri, saying, "He's driving my Ferrari."
Bollettieri's strategy for Mary's match against Graf was for Pierce to attack Graf's strength, the forehand, in an attempt to unnerve her. Graf had been playing unsteadily throughout the tournament, even dropping a set to 76th-ranked Joannette Kruger of South Africa. The night before the semifinal, Bollettieri got a call from one of his other pupils, Boris Becker. "Tell Mary that she will be nervous," said Becker, "but that Graf will be very, very nervous."
Pierce seemed not at all unnerved at the prospect of playing Graf, who had beaten her both times they had played. "Oh, god, I'd just die if I won this," a giggling Pierce said the day before the semis.
In the match the Roland Garros crowd was treated to the rare spectacle of Graf's getting outslammed. How often does someone belt more winners than Graf? Pierce did, 17 to 10, completely demoralizing the defending champion, who made 27 unforced errors. "I don't know what I could have done about it," Graf said. "What tactic can you have when she puts away every point?"
Her training had served her well, but the one part of the game that Pierce could not train for was dealing with pressure. That proved to be her undoing against Sánchez Vicario. On Saturday, while waiting for the rain to stop, Pierce and Sanchez Vicario languished from 2 p.m. until 6:34 p.m. before they took the court. Then they completed only three games before play was postponed again. As they left the court, Pierce was up 2-1 with a break point.
When they returned at noon on Sunday, Pierce was edgy and tight. Although she broke serve to take a 3-1 lead, Sánchez Vicario broke right back. Not even the imploring cries from the stands could soothe Pierce. In the second set she fought back from a 3-1 deficit to even it at 3-3 but then fell behind 5-3 before firing a crosscourt backhand just wide on match point. Sánchez Vicario shrieked and Hung her racket into the air to polite but disappointed applause.