PARIS — Each has played six matches and has yet to drop a set. So something will have to give today when No. 2-ranked Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain plays No. 12 Mary Pierce of France and Bradenton, Fla., in the women's final of the French Open.
Although they have rolled into the title match, Sanchez Vicario and Pierce offer a contrast in styles and personalities, and how they approach the game says a lot about how they approach life.
Sanchez Vicario is content to linger at the baseline and trade ground strokes with anyone silly enough to engage her. She personifies the classic Spanish clay-court game that sent two women and two men to the semifinals of this French Open.
Pierce, on the other hand, plays rock 'n' roll tennis as taught at the school that gave us Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Monica Seles. She has electrified fans with a fierce forehand that could change the face of women's tennis.
"This is a result of nine months of work with lots of ups and downs," said Nick Bollettieri, the coach who has been instrumental in reviving Pierce's career.
As recently as last month's Italian Open, Pierce, 19, was struggling. Bollettieri said she was dejected in Rome after she had won only one match. A week later in Berlin she repeated, losing her second match to Julie Halard of France.
"I said, 'Mary, don't get mad, you don't think too well,' " Bollettieri recalled after Pierce had advanced to the final by demolishing No. 1-ranked Steffi Graf, 6-2, 6-2, in Thursday's semifinals. "I just want when you hit the ball, hit the next one harder."
On the day before the French Open began two weeks ago, Pierce won an exhibition, 9-1, by whaling away at the ball.
"I liked that," she told Bollettieri.
"You didn't hit it hard enough," he replied.
Since then, she has been hitting the ball so hard, and with so much accuracy, her opponents can do nothing but shake their heads. Graf said Pierce is hitting the ball harder than Seles used to.
"I think against Arantxa, it will be more difficult because the points are going to be longer and she is not making that many mistakes," Graf said. "But if she plays like she did (against me), she has a very good chance."
Sanchez Vicario, 22, has defeated Pierce three of four times but lost their only 1994 match in the quarterfinals of a tournament at Hilton Head, S.C.
Sanchez Vicario did not have to work hard to reach her fifth Grand Slam final, her third French, when she routed her friend, No. 3 Conchita Martinez, in the semifinals, 6-3, 6-1.