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Tennis bans dad for making racket

If you've spent time watching kids play sports, you've seen them: The overbearing parents who yell, scream, and often berate their own sons and daughters.

Jim Pierce is one, and he's taken his act to the professional level.

Now tennis officials have seen enough. They've told Pierce to take a hike.

Pierce, notorious on the women's tour for yelling during matches, scuffling with other fans and publicly berating the play of his daughter, Mary, has been banned.

Pierce, whose family once lived in the Countryside area and Tampa, was ejected from the stands at the French Open in Paris on May 28 when he disrupted his daughter's match against Kimberly Po. Thursday, the Women's Tennis Council voted unanimously to bar Pierce from attending matches for the rest of this year under a new rule concerning "dishonorable or unprofessional conduct."

The rule, originally written for players, was expanded this year to cover coaches, player's agents and player's relatives. It prohibits "abusive conduct directed toward any player, official or spectator."

The WTC already had put Pierce, 56, on probation in January for previous incidents. He becomes the first person sanctioned under the expanded rule and reportedly will appeal the decision.

Anne Person Worcester, managing director of the New York-based WTC, said the decision, coincidentally coming just before Father's Day, was "based on reports from the incident at Roland Garros and against the background of past incidents."

Pierce says all he did at the French Open was shout encouragement to his daughter, who is 18. His yelling during matches has been common at tournaments since Mary's days on the junior circuit.

The elder Pierce is known as a jovial character away from the tour. But he has long been extremely critical of his daughter, who is ranked 14th in the world among women pros.

During and after matches, Pierce has been known to curse at his daughter in public.

After Mary narrowly lost a doubles match at the 1990 Eckerd Open in Largo, Pierce reportedly berated her in the parking lot using a string of vulgarities, saying she played "stupid" and didn't "have a brain" in her head.

After another match, at the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, he repeatedly shouted at Mary during her match (which she barely lost), questioning her desire and charging that she "didn't even try."

Pierce's outbursts have led to confrontations with fans sitting around him. He scuffled with a fan at the 1992 French Open and exchanged punches with the father of one of Mary's opponents a few years ago on the junior circuit.

"He was (banned) because he has been disruptive," Gerard Smith, executive director of the St. Petersburg-based Women's Tennis Association, said by telephone from London, where he is preparing for the Wimbledon championships. "He has disrupted matches and caused problems for fans and officials and interfered with the play on the court. And we don't want that to happen again."

Smith added that Pierce's situation would be reviewed at the end of the year to determine if he will be allowed to attend tour events in 1994.

At the time of Pierce's ejection from Roland Garros last month, a report surfaced that Mary had asked for her father's removal. She refused to comment on the subject afterward.

She has, however, been hiding from her father since then, training somewhere in France, according to her mother, Yannick.

Mrs. Pierce said earlier this week she wouldn't go to Wimbledon, which begins Monday, because she feared her husband would follow her there.

Still, Worcester maintains Mary had nothing to do with her father's ban.

"Mary has not played a role in this," Worcester said. "It's the WTC's job to protect the integrity of the women's tour and take steps like this when it deems necessary."

Mary Pierce turned pro in March 1989 at age 13. Her family lived in the Countryside area at that time, but sold their home and moved into a Tampa apartment to help finance Mary's career.

They soon moved out of the apartment and traveled the tour in their 1979 Cadillac, bouncing from motel to motel and using the Shoney's Inn on Fowler Avenue in Tampa as their home base until Mary's career flourished early last year. They have been profiled in many publications, including Sports Illustrated.

Mary, who was born in Montreal, plays under the French flag, the home country of her mother, but maintains a residence in Delray Beach. Mary has earned more than $400,000 in career prize money and more than a $1-million in endorsement deals. She has reached the fourth round in her last four Grand Slam tournaments and is seeded 13th at what will be her first Wimbledon.

_ Information from Associated Press and the New York Times was used in this report.