It was 1991 when a 16-year-old Frenchwoman conquered the Country Time Club: she was Mary Pierce, and that was her first WTA title. The first great player to have played on the clay of Viale dell’Olimpo, one that would go on to win two slam titles (Australian Open 1995 and Roland Garros 2000). Mary gave us an interview remembering her triumphs in Palermo.

– In Palermo you won your first WTA title both in singles and doubles when you were just 16 years old. The next year, you repeated your singles performance, becoming the first player to win two back-to-back edition. What are your memories of Palermo?

I have so many wonderful memories of Palermo. I love Palermo. It’s a beautiful island, beautiful weather. I remember everyone at the club being so nice, it had a relaxed feel to it. I loved playing in the evening – the Italian tennis fans were great supporters and a great crowd to play in front of. They always created such a great atmosphere. I always felt their support when I was playing. Palermo has a very special place for me in my heart for my tennis career. It’s a place and a tournament that I cherish and I will always remember.”

– You have some sort of connection with Italy. You won your first three trophies here and in the last tournament you won (Moscow) you beat Italian Francesca Schiavone in the final…

Mi piace molto al Italia! I love Italy. I love the country, the people, the food, the fashion, the jewelry. They have such a great and beautiful country. I also had a sparring partner when I was about 17 or 18 years old from Brindisi – Bobo Ciampa. He helped me learn Italian, which I used to speak a little bit. I can still understand it and when I travel I still try and put Italian TV on to try and keep up my Italian a little bit.”

– The tour will restart from Palermo and from clay. A first step for preparing for Roland Garros?

I was very happy when Palermo was announced as a tournament to restart play on the WTA Tour. I’m very happy for Palermo and the players. I know that it’s a great tournament and I know the players like playing there. I know Palermo will do their best job to make it an enjoyable tournament and I know this year they’ll do their best to make it as safe and healthy for those involved. I wish them all the best and much success. I know it won’t be easy to organize a tournament during a pandemic but I wish them all the best of luck. Auguri! I wish I was playing it haha.

– What is your message for our tournament’s Director, Oliviero Palma, who fought to make Palermo the first tournament back at all costs?

It’s great for the players to start on clay to get ready for Roland Garros. My message to Oliviero Palma – congratulations, well done. I’m very happy for you that you’re able to get Palermo on the calendar and make it the first tournament back in the pandemic. Thank you very much to all of your hard work and to your team and sponsors and everyone who has made it possible. I know it’s not always easy especially during the pandemic. I just want to say well done, thank you, great job and keep up the support for women’s tennis!

– Who’s the player that resembles you the most in the tour today?

I like Amanda Anisimova a lot. I think she’s got a really nice game. She’s strong mentally, aggressive, she has an all-court game. She’s my favorite up-and-coming player to watch. I like Naomi Osaka as well. She has a great all-court game as well.

– Will you be watching Palermo Ladies Open from home?

Well, I don’t know where I’m going to be to watch it, but I will follow the scores the internet to watch it!

– Have you ever come back to Palermo as a tourist or did you get the chance to visit the city during the tournament? What’s your opinion about it?

“I have not come back to Palermo as a tourist… Oliviero hasn’t invited me back haha. So if he invites me to Palermo I’ll come back with pleasure! When I was there, I had the chance to visit a little bit the beach but not the whole island. I would love to come back as a tourist for sure!

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