Tennis: Father Pierce fights back

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The Independent Online
JIM PIERCE, the disruptive father of French player Mary Pierce, fierecly denied that he was the cause of his daughter's shock withdrawal from Wimbledon.

'I think my daughter pulled out because she had some bad advice from her mother and her would-be coach Nick Bollettieri,' Pierce said from his Florida home. And he scotched suggestions that he had planned to defy a tournament ban and watch Mary make her Wimbledon debut, insisting he gave women's tennis chiefs his 'word of honour' that he would not turn up.

Wimbledon security staff had been put on a Jim Pierce alert, but he said: 'They can go home and relax, they can take their guns off and put their handcuffs down. I'm in Miami and I have no intention of going to England.

'I have never said that I would go to Wimbledon, I have never said that I would disguise myself - it's all childhood make-up things.'

Pierce became infamous on the women's Tour for physically and verbally abusing his daughter and for unruly behaviour during matches. He was banned from tournaments indefinitely following an outburst at last year's French Open in Paris.

But he said: 'My daughter's been slapped once in her life when she spat in my face and said an obscene word to me and I tried to give her a whack to try to chastise her. But that's the only thing she has ever had from me in my life.

'You don't give eight or 10 hours a day for eight years in a row. . . and make sure that every dime she makes goes in the bank for herself, if you are trying to hurt someone.'

Mary Pierce withdrew from Wimbledon on Saturday, less than 48 hours before the start of the championships, citing 'reasons far beyond my control'. Speculation immediately focused on her father, but later, fuelled by comments from six-times former champion Billie Jean King, it was suggested that the French Open finalist was simply scared of playing on grass.

'Mary can play on any surface in the world,' said her father, who was highly critical of the decision for her to play the under-21 event at last week's Volkswagen Cup.

Directing most of his vitriol at his estranged wife, Yannick, and Bollettieri, Pierce added: 'Mary doesn't have anything to say about her own life. She is still a young girl, very naive, a great, great person, a good clean pure-hearted girl. It's just that the greedy people who want the dollars are dominating her and telling her what to do.

'I used to say to her when you get to the top 10 or 15 in the world the wolves will be at the door. I can only say now that the wolves are not at the door any more - they are in the room with you eating your food.'