Maria has been busy making preparations ahead of the European tennis season, which is now well under way in Rome, a venue she had a great deal of success at.
A visit to Nike Brasil preparing for London
She took time to spend the day with her Nike friends in Sao Paulo, visiting different office and their flagship store on Rua Oscar Freire where she met staff and Rochele Rosenblat, Nike’s Sports Marketing Director, and Carol Souza, Sports Division Brand Manager for Marchon Brasil, the luxury sunglasses supplier to Nike.
“They take such good care of me,” Maria said. “I really appreciate the support they give me.
“We also have a lot of fun together! This time they gave me a Brazilian national football shirt with my name on the back, which is pretty cool really!
“I learned a lot about the latest technology for sunglasses too, which is important to protect the eyes.”
Marchon produces top of the range eye wear, which Nike is pleased to be associated with.
There is a wide range of Nike product available and Maria had a good look at all the new lines already on display, particularly the soccer collections ahead of the World Cup.
While Maria will not be in Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which starts on 12 June, she is an avid football fan and will be keeping a close eye on the progress of the host nation through qualifying Group A where they meet Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.
Celebrating the 1964 victory
“The World Cup runs right through the grass court season and Wimbledon,” she said.
“So, of course, I will be in London where, this year, I will be one of the Chairman’s special guests for The Championships.
“It’s exciting and I am really looking forward to it as I will be celebrating fifty years since I won the title there in 1964!
“That was probably the most important title of all for me because I had come back from illness and injury to beat Margaret Court in three sets when I probably was not expected to, since she was the world number one at the time.
“I think a lot of people thought I wouldn’t be in good enough physical shape to beat her so to come through like that was great for me.”
In fact, Maria was the second seed so it wasn’t quite such a long shot as it might seem, but it was a very closely fought and exciting match, which she won eventually, 6–4 7–9 6–3.
When Margaret fought back to take the second set, many thought that it was all over but Maria had other plans and demonstrated her fighting spirit to win through.
She went on to win the US Championships that year too, beating Carole Caldwell Graebner in one of the fastest finals ever, 6-1 6-0, losing only 13 points in the opening set and 7 more in the second.
She was subsequently named world number one by both the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the Daily Telegraph, a feat she also achieved in 1966.
“1964 was a very good year for me,” she recalls.
“Everything seemed to come together for me after a lot of challenges on and off the court, so I was very happy for that.”
Maria’s physical problems are well documented and she works hard to stay in the best possible shape these days so that she can still enjoy hitting some balls and making public appearances as well working for television.
So how does she does she stay fit?
“I pick my hitting partners so I make the most of the time I allow myself to play on the court,” she said.
“I have been hitting a lot recently, which is great, but I don’t play every day so my body can recover and, of course, I get help from the Physios and sports therapists whenever I can.
“I am particularly grateful for all the treatment I have had from Marcio Murad, the Physio at Harmonia [her home club], who has helped me a lot as well as the other members of the team there.
“He had this picture taken of us and posted it on Facebook apparently where it is getting a lot of followers!”
She also takes care to eat well, watches her weight, doesn’t drink alcohol and gets plenty of rest between commitments.
A good example to us all!