Surprisingly, Monica Seles and Mary Pierce are considered veterans of the WTA tour at ages 28 and 26 respectively. Both are multiple Australian Open winners but today the two champions experienced opposite fates. Seles coasted into the second round while Pierce was forced to retire with an unexpected abdominal injury.
Four time Australian Open champion and tenth seed Monica Seles spent no time dispatching the unorthodox Patty Schnyder 6-1 6-2 in her first round match on Vodafone Arena today. Having played and beaten Schnyder twice before, today crowd favourite Seles made it a hat trick. Schnyder’s inability to capitalise on break-point opportunities made for Seles’ quick path to the locker rooms.
In her post-match press conference Seles sung the praises of a reduced schedule in the lead-up to the Australian Open this year. “I had such a great time in Perth last year (at the Hopman Cup) so I decided to do that again and just try to save all my energy and do the best that I can for these next two weeks.
“I think it was too much playing singles and doubles. We see girls at 20 (years old) getting injured, and for me at my age I just have to focus on singles.”
The American made no secret of her love for Australia, adding that it had nothing to do with her unbelievable success rate at the Open: “I really enjoy my time here. I have a lot of family and friends, so it makes it more special. I try not to pick a place I like or not on the basis of how I do.
“But Australia is one of the great places I really look forward to coming back to every year, play or not play,” said the No.8 seed, who looks to make an impact in her section of the draw, following ninth seed Sandrine Testud’s premature defeat earlier today.
From the other side of the tracks, wildcard recipient, Mary Pierce, saw only four games on the court before curtseying out to American Jill Craybas, 0-4. The two-time champion who did not drop a set on her way to an Australian Open victory in 1997 was plagued by spinal injuries in 2001 causing her ranking to plummet to 131.
Today, it was a new problem that forced the popular Frenchwoman out. An abdominal strain was the cause of constant interruptions to Pierce’s serving action which she later explained was a possible result of her body reacting to lack of match practice. Pierce called the trainer during the first game of the match, when serving at 40-40. “It was impossible for me to serve, to stretch, lift my arm up like I normally would do in a service action.” Pierce left the court for treatment (taping) which proved ineffective on her return.
Despite having reached the third round or better at Melbourne Park for the past five years an inconsolable Pierce eventually withdrew from the match. Fans will be disappointed and Mary will be unable to display one of the brave new outfits she is renowned for here at the Open.