Welcome to French Open Flashbacks, where wtatennis.com will take a look back at some of the most memorable narratives from Roland Garros over the past 20 years. After recapping Charleston's classics, Stuttgart's standards, Madrid’s magic moments, and Rome's records, our retrospective heads to the culmination of the clay season in Paris - up next is Mary Pierce's Roland Garros sweep to ring in the new millennium.
For more classic moments, check out our other French Open Flashbacks:
1999: Graf wins 22nd and final Grand Slam title
2001: Capriati confirms comeback with brave battle in record-setting final
2003: Henin fulfils lofty goals with first of four Roland Garros crowns
2014: Halep serves notice in run to first final in Paris
2016: Mladenovic, Garcia delight home fans with fairytale triumph in Paris
2017: Ostapenko powers to Roland Garros title out of left field
THE MOMENT: Mary Pierce first made the French Open final at the age of 19, unleashing a revolutionary power to blitz through six matches with the loss of just ten games. Four of those were won by then-World No.1 Stefanie Graf, who was left speechless after 77 minutes on Court Centrale. "There was little I could do," she sighed.
Invincible though she seemed, Pierce was still a teenager, one who spent the a sleepless night before the 1994 final worried about the trophy ceremony, where the Canadian-born, American-raised youngster would be expected to speak French to her home crowd. One can't be sure whether it was fatigue, stress, or inexperience that ultimately led to defeat against Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, and though she avenged the loss six months later to win the Australian Open, Paris remained a dream for Pierce for the remainder of the decade.
The new millennium, however, brought a new Pierce, who kicked off the clay court swing with an emphatic win in Charleston - where she dropped just one game to Sánchez Vacario in the final - returned to Roland Garros ready to step back into the spotlight, and claim the elusive Coupe Suzanne Lenglen - not won by a Frenchwoman since Françoise Durr back in 1967.
Shades of 1994 streaked across the first week of the 2000 tournament as she surged into the second week after losing 13 games. The quarterfinals proved the first test for Pierce as she took on Monica Seles, who, like her French rival, had helped usher in a new era of power tennis to the women's game. Ironically enough, the three-setter wouldn't be remembered for power plays as much as one moment of audacious improvisation in the very first game. As Pierce tracked a Seles swing volley into the open court, she leapt into the air and lobbed the ball from between her legs, helping take flight into the semifinals.
Awaiting her there was another World No.1 in Martina Hingis, with whom she was enjoying a winning run in women's doubles - reaching the semifinals together one day earlier. Hingis led their head-to-head 10-5 and appeared poised to erase the disappointment brought by Graf back in 1999. Again, Pierce prevailed, if after a second set hiccup and full body cramps late in the third.
Far from the French test Pierce feared six years prior, the finals weekend was a non-stop celebration, starting with the coin toss, where she flashed her trademark smile at the camera. After two tight sets with Conchita Martinez, she sealed victory with one last big serve, and raised her arms in pure elation.
THE MEANING: The full circle moment would have been complete enough that day, with Durr on hand to help present the trophy, but Pierce wasn't done yet. The next day, she and Hingis rejoined forces to take out Virginia Rauno Pascual and Paola Suarez to win the doubles title and complete her French Open sweep.
"The feelings and the memories are still very fresh and very vivid," she admitted this week during a live broadcast with the International Tennis Hall of Fame. "It’s incredible to think that it’s been 20 yearr. Honestly, I can’t believe it!"
A back injury kept Pierce from defending her title in 2001 - and off the court for much of the next year - and so the Frenchwoman spent the early aughts rebuilding her ranking from a low of World No.130 in 2002.
Unsurprisingly, it all came together again in Paris, when Pierce kicked off a career renaissance by reaching one last Roland Garros final in 2005. Though she fell to an in-form Justine Henin, she continued her momentum on all surfaces: testing eventual Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in a thrilling quarterfinal tie-break, and defeating Henin, countrywoman Amélie Mauresmo, and Elena Dementieva all in a row to reach a first US Open final.
Pierce played her last match in 2006, was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame last summer, and continues to be a fixture on tour as a WTA Legend - often using her breadth of tennis knowledge to commentate matches at the WTA Finals.