In a match between Grand Slam champions, Mary Pierce and Conchita Martinez battled for the 2000 French Open title.
Off to a somewhat-slow start on the hard courts in 2000, Pierce’s game began to heat up toward the tail end of that stretch with a semifinal showing in Indian Wells, Calif. The Frenchwoman then lost her opening match in Miami, but followed that up with a quarterfinal showing in her first tournament on clay in Amelia Island, Fla. After winning her next event in South Carolina in a truly dominant performance—dropping a total of 12 games in five matches—it appeared she was going to be a contender for the top prize at her home Slam, the French Open. However, inconsistency struck once again, as she won only one match between two warmup events in Europe.
When it was time for Roland Garros, though, Pierce once again came to life as she reached the final for the first time since 1994. On her way to the championship match, the sixth seed battled through two tough three-setters against Monica Seles and world No. 1 Martina Hingis in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. In the championship match, she’d face one of the greatest clay-court players of her generation, Martinez, who reached the final at Roland Garros for the first time. The 1994 Wimbledon champion, who had advanced to the fourth round or better in Paris every year since her debut appearance in 1988, finally broke through, only dropping two sets along the way.
On the way to her Australian Open win in 1995, Pierce beat Martinez in straight sets in the semifinals in the first-ever meeting between the two. Over the next several years leading up to this final, they would play 15 more times, with Pierce holding a 9-6 edge. There was never a clear favorite in their matches, with lopsided scorelines against the other on occasion regardless of the surface. Pierce had won their most recent match from earlier in the year on hard courts in Sydney, but Martinez had beaten the Frenchwoman in three sets in their last clay-court clash in the second round of Roland Garros only a year earlier.
Despite the pressure of trying to become the first Frenchwoman to win the singles title in the Open Era, it wasn’t Pierce who came out tight. Martinez struggled out the gate and the sixth seed took advantage, winning the first set 6-2. Though the score was rather decisive, Pierce showed signs of nerves getting to her toward the end and it carried over into the early stages of the second as she fell behind 2-0. Hitting her way out of trouble, Pierce was able to recover the break and gain one of her own late. Serving for the championship up 6-5, Pierce clinched the title with a booming serve down the middle on match point. With the victory, she became the first Frenchwoman to triumph at the tournament since Francoise Durr in 1967.
Pierce brought her record against Spaniards in major finals to 2-1, having split two of those matches against Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario: a loss at the 1994 French Open and a win at the ’95 Australian Open.
Martinez reached her third career major final on as many different surfaces, after winning Wimbledon on grass in 1994 and reaching the Melbourne final on hard courts in ’98.
The most recent final featuring two players vying for their first French Open final took place in 1997, when Iva Majoli surprised Martina Hingis in the championship match.