Former French Open champion Mary Pierce has backed Romanian Simona Halep to end her Grand Slam jinx and believes this year’s wide open Roland Garros draw bodes well for the future of the women’s game. Pierce, the last French player to win the singles title in Paris, also told Reuters that Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, France’s best hopes at the tournament this year, might struggle under the pressure of their home slam.
“I do believe in Simona,” Pierce said in an interview in Bengaluru, where she is promoting the TCS World 10K run . “I think she will win a Grand Slam. Which one and when I don’t know, but definitely clay is a good surface for her.” World number one Halep, who faces American Alison Riske in the first round in Paris, has a reputation for cracking in big matches and lost to newcomer Jelena Ostapenko in last year’s French Open final.
Halep’s defeat by the Latvian ended arguably her best chance of winning a maiden slam, and she also lost to Dane Caroline Wozniacki in this year’s Australian Open final. The Romanian’s reputation of faltering when the lights are brightest was born after her defeat by Maria Sharapova in the 2014 Roland Garros final. She did little to dispel that perception when losing to Elina Svitolina in this month’s Italian Open final.
“She hasn’t yet handled the pressure really well, and the moments where she could have won her first grand slam, the pressure just got to her,” added Pierce, who was champion at Roland Garros in 2000. “I think she’s been through enough of those and I wouldn’t count her out because once a grand slam comes around, the top players, they shift to another gear.”