The drama queen takes a bow

John Roberts reflects on the growing maturity of Mary Pierce, who achieved a first Grand Slam victory in Australia As the latest Grand Slam champion, Mary Pierce has suddenly assumed far greater importance than the drama queen famous for her disruptive father and for taking stage fright on the eve of Wimbledon last June.

Winning the Australian Open singles title on Saturday advanced the adoptive French player to the forefront of the women's game, as it struggles to raise public perception and acquire a new tour sponsor.

Until Pierce overpowered the top seed, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 6-3, 6-2, there had been little scope for optimism. The women's contribution to a great show had been minimal, unworthy of consideration beside a vibrant men's tournament.

Here was further evidence of how the women's game had declined, partly through reasons beyond its control, since Monica Seles won a highly competitive final against Steffi Graf here two years ago.

Seles has yet to give an indication of her comeback after being stabbed on court in Hamburg; Martina Navratilova has retired; we still do not know how successful Jennifer Capriati will be after her drug problems, and Graf has yet to resume after injury prevented her from defending the Australian title.

Though Sanchez Vicario failed to win the final, a quirk of the computer rankings system will enable her to supplant Graf as the world No 1 next Monday, as a consequence of the German's withdrawal from this week's event in Tokyo.

While Saturday's match was not a classic, it was livelier than what had gone before, and at least there was a new name on the honours board. Having enjoyed her triumph, the 20-year-old Pierce should now prepare for a focus of attention even sharper than the fuss created by her sensational victory against Graf in the semi-finals of the French Open last year. Fortunately, there are signs of maturity in Pierce's play and personality.

Apart from unleashing a potent backhand to reinforce the fearsome forehand - heaven help opponents if she improves her serve and ventures forward to volley - she moved briskly, and did not lack the confidence to make amends for her loss to Sanchez Vicario in the French Open final.

Significantly, she achieved the success in the absence of her coach, Nick Bollettieri, and her mother, Yannick. Her father has been banned from tournaments since being ejected from the French Open in 1993.

It is a long time since a woman won an initial Grand Slam singles title without a parent at the courtside, and it will do Pierce's self-belief no harm to remember that she accomplished the job on her own.

she remains in contact with her father, but does not allow him to influence her career. "I'm sure he probably watched, and I'm sure he is very happy for me," she said. He did, and he is. Speaking by telephone from his home in Florida, Jim Pierce said: "It was great, exactly as I thought it would be. Mary dominated."

The new champion does have one particular obstacle to overcome. During matches, she irritates as many people as she delights. Some despair at her booming, hit-or-miss style. Others dislike her haughty demeanour, preening between points and affronted outbursts at umpires and line judges.

"I hate it myself," she said. "I can't watch when my matches are shown again on television. The person on court is not the person I am off the court."

She promises to address the situation, while taking care not to change anything that might dilute her competitive spirit. pounds

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine