Tennis: Wimbledon '94 / Pierce 'need fear no one' - Becker

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The Independent Online
BORIS Becker leapt to the defence of Mary Pierce yesterday, dismissing speculation that the French player had withdrawn from Wimbledon because she feared the competition and not because of concerns for her safety.

'She is a very good player and she doesn't have to fear anybody in the game,' said Becker, who shares the same coach, Nick Bollettieri, with Pierce.

Billie Jean King had earlier added to the controversy when she described fears that Pierce's disruptive father, Jim, would defy a tournament ban and watch his daughter play at Wimbledon as a 'smokescreen'.

'I strongly don't think so. I strongly think that she had a bit of a problem with her father,' said Becker after his defeat of David Wheaton.

Becker said that Pierce, who beat Steffi Graf in the French Open earlier this month, had discussed her plight with him and his wife, Barbara, on the eve of her withdrawal from the championships.

'The day before she pulled out we had dinner at my place, a little garden party, and she talked with my wife a little bit and with me but I obviously don't want to go into details. But having a father like that, what could she do really?

'Everything has been so fast for her. She is supposed to save the women's game and I think she needs time to think about the whole picture and what she wants to do in tennis. She is going to come back strong.'

Becker was subjected to the same sort of microscopic examination of his life and career when he burst on to the scene with his first Wimbledon victory in 1985 as an unseeded 17-year-old.

But he says he was much better equipped to handle the media spotlight. 'I had good parents. My father and my mother did their work and they didn't bother and interfere in my life.

'When things get bad on the tennis court or in my job I could always go back to my home and it hasn't changed. That helped me a lot but Mary doesn't have that, obviously.'