29 June 2014
After the first week of The Championships at Wimbledon, Maria reflects on the happenings on and off the court so far.
“It’s been quite a week,” she said. “I’ve been in the Royal Box, watched a lot of tennis, made a whole bunch of interviews for CNN, the BBC, ESPN and others, signed a mass of autographs and posed for dozens of pictures! It’s been a lot of fun, if a bit hectic at times.”
She was in the Royal Box on Tuesday, which was Ladies Day when, traditionally, the defending champion opens play.
Since Marion Bartoli has retired, proceedings got under way with last year’s finalist, Sabine Lisicki doing the honours.
“Marion went onto the court to conduct the coin toss with a young girl from the Elena Baltacha Academy before the match when Bally was remembered by the Centre Court crowd and television audience.
“It was such a sad moment to remember a player who was playing here at Wimbledon just last year and so tragically died of liver cancer few months ago.
“I know British tennis is mourning her loss and making every effort to raise money to keep her academy going and I wish them all every success with that.”
Bally was remembered again at the LTA Ball held at The Hurlingham Club on Saturday night where Maria was one of the guest of honour.
She sat with LTA President, Cathie Sabin and her husband John and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
“The ballroom was beautifully decorated and nearly 600 guests had drinks outside before dinner where they had this amazing carousel,” said Maria. “It was so unexpected!
“The theme of the evening was the 1920s and lots of people dressed up for the occasion. They even gave out feather boas on arrival so there were feathers everywhere! It was a lovely evening.”
All the talk, of course, was of the defeat of Serena Williams that afternoon at the hands of Alize Cornet and the World Cup.
“Both were hot topics,” laughed Maria. “Brazil had just scraped through on penalties against Chile in a really exciting match, just as Serena lost in three sets to Cornet after a long rain delay.
Serena’s early loss
“She hasn’t looked right since her early loss in Paris so something must be amiss with her but all credit to the French woman who played a really gutsy match and held her nerve, which is a difficult thing to do against Serena.
“The women’s draw is wide open now for Maria Sharapova to get to the final. She had Serena as a likely quarter final opponent and after losing to her something like 15 times in a row, I don’t think anyone would have given her much of a chance to beat her, but now… with the two top seeds out of the way, she has to the favourite.”
Li Na became the first casualty when she was sent packing by the Czech Republic’s Barbara Zahlavova-Strycova on Friday.
“There are some interesting line-ups coming up among the women and we’ll see how Simona Halep and Agnieszka Radwanska do.
“Cornet has to play Genie Bouchard, the promising Canadian, which should be interesting too.
“The men’s draw seems to be following the form book with the top four seeds coming through without mishap.
“Rafa [Nadal] has dropped a set in each of his first three matches, but he did the same in Paris and managed to win the tournament so I don’t put too much on that.
“[Novak] Djokovic struggled with Radek Stepanek in the second round and had a nasty fall in his last match when he seemed to hurt his left shoulder but he won in three against [Gilles] Simon and now faces another Frenchman, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
“Andy Murray has had the easiest draw and looks to be cruising as the defending champion. He seems to be very confident and perhaps Amelie Mauresmo is helping to keep him relaxed.
“He plays Kevin Anderson next, who has been on court for ever, losing sets all the way to the fourth round.
“Roger Federer is taking to heart Stefan Edberg’s advice to serve and volley at every opportunity and is a delight to watch, as always.
“Neither he or Andy has dropped a set yet and they have reached the second week without spending too much energy but Roger now meets Tommy Robredo, the tenacious Spaniard.
“Grigor Dimitrov, the winner at Queen’s, was lucky to escape in five against Alexandr Dolgopolov and looks to be finding his feet at Wimbledon. He is a really exciting prospect.
“Once again, the draw is shaping up into some really interesting match-ups so the second week should prove very watchable.”
“Not really! I know anything can happen!”
Maria also spent a delightful evening with the new CEO-Designate of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Todd Martin, and some inductees at a delicious San Lorenzo dinner on Friday.
“We had a good time swapping stories about the old days, which is always fun as we all have mutual friends so its good to catch up a bit.
“Todd has some really good ideas for the Hall of Fame too, which is encouraging. I wish him all the best.”
Finally, she asked what she would have been doing on the middle Sunday rest day of Wimbledon, Maria responded: “I always go to Queen’s by tube and practice indoors on the wood for several hours before going out to lunch with friends at a place in Knightsbridge and we would then go to a movie or something.
“It was all pretty relaxed and much like any other day really. I didn’t think too much about the draw or how things were shaping up for me in my next match.
“I always knew I had to get through a match at a time but by then they were getting tougher.
“I also sometimes had a meeting with Ted Tinling to decide which dresses I would be wearing the following week or if anything needed to be changed.
“In 1964 I felt very confident leading into the second week and remember I played really well against Lesley Turner in the semis, who was in very good form after Paris. It was a really good match which I won in three sets.
“The final also was a fantastic match and I remember they used to have the results in the newspaper on sale at the gate at Wimbledon as we left and the headline said something like ‘The girl that the whole world wanted to win today’.
“It was considered to be the best match of the decade, that final against Margaret [Smith Court]!”
Of course, that 1964 final is being honoured during this Championships as Maria is a special guest of The Chairman, Phil Brook and his wife, Gill. Happy times!