Rio de Janeiro, 19 February 2014
The Rio Open paid tribute to Maria on Wednesday night at Jockey Club Brasiliero, acknowledging her as one of the biggest names of Brazilian Sport and a world tennis icon.
The winner of 19 Grand Slam titles stepped onto centre court to watch a video screened to the song ‘Mary, Mary’ by Milton Nascimento and produced by the organisers as homage to her brilliant career.
It all brought a standing ovation from the spectators.
You can view the video now on YouTube
Maria received a plaque to commemorate the occasion from the tournament director, Luiz Fernando Carvalho, who is also the grandson of Alcides Procopius, the first Brazilian to play at Wimbledon and an important influence on her career.
“I was thrilled to see my good times on the court, I am very happy to be here,” said the four-time US Open (1959, 1963, 1964 and 1966) and three-time Wimbledon singles champion (1959, 1960 and 1964).
“I hope that everything I did serves in some way to inspire young players, and this tournament in Rio is the first of many. Brazil needs events like this.”
“I want to thank you for everything you did for tennis. You are an example to be followed,” said Carvalho.
Here’s another clip on YouTube showing Maria practising in Rio this week: Click HERE.