'Young people give up': France's last champion Mary Pierce blasts Paris flops

Paris (AFP) –

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Mary Pierce, France's last Roland Garros champion 20 years ago, delivered a damning indictment of the state of tennis in the country after home hopes ended before the quarter-finals this year, claiming "young people give up".

Pierce was the 2000 winner in Paris and runner-up in 1994 and 2005. The former world number three was also Australian Open champion in 1995.

Only four French players reached the third round of this delayed 2020 tournament and only three made it to the last 16.

Fiona Ferro's exit at the hands of Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin on Sunday brought home interest to an end for another year.

"We have to change the culture, make people understand that we have to work hard, that nothing happens easily, that we have to be patient, to persevere," Pierce, now 45, told AFP.

"Today, I think that with social networks, some may think that everything is easy, so as soon as it starts to be difficult, young people give up. This is not how we will be able to do great things in life and in tennis."

Pierce won 18 titles in a career that endured numerous ups and downs.

These days, she spends most of her time on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and according, to her official WTA biography, going "to church and missionary trips to Africa, swimming, walking, cycling, boating, jet skiing, going to the beach, the spa, wildlife/animals, playing cards, all board games and puzzles."

To win at Roland Garros, she says, there is no secret.

"You have to train a lot more outside on clay, throughout the year," says Pierce, recalling that she herself "grew up on clay in France and also in the United States".

Pierce, who retired in 2006, said she still pinches herself when she thinks of her 2000 Roland Garros triumph, a straight-sets win over Conchita Martinez.

"It's crazy, I can't believe it's been 20 years already. It has passed very quickly. I remember that victory as if it was yesterday."