Hi Brazilian Friend.
Maria was involved in the match which introduced me to tennis - the 1964 Wimbledon final in which she beat Margaret Smith. I was enthralled by her sheer artistry. I would rate Maria alongside Evonne Goolagong as the most naturally gifted women tennis players of all time. When they were on form they were pure magic. It would almost blow your mind to try and imagine what a meeting between these two when they were at their best would have been like.
Of course the downside to this is that players like this can be horrible when off-form!
It is just a pity Maria was dogged by ill health otherwise she could have mounted a real challenge to Margaret's domination of the game through much of the 60s. If Margaret and Maria played each other when at their beat I wouldn't have liked to predict the outcome but perhaps just that touch of brilliance might have swung a vital point Maria's way.
The Wimbledon title was all but her's for the taking in 1961 - and that would have elevated her to the select band who have won 3 years in a row - until she was struck down by hepatitis during RG. To me, one of the oddest results of all time in Slam history was her defeat to Vera Sukova in the 1962 Wimbledon semi. Vera was a competent player at her best on clay and it defies belief that Maria could lose to her on grass in such a crucial match.
She was beset by further injuries and ill health from the end of 1966 and couldn't really challenge right at the very top although was still in the mix but it was a sad way to see her career fizzle out even thouh she did play sporadically in the 70s.
Maybe her health played a part but I don't think she fully pushed herself. In the good old days before the advent of Open Tennis when tournaments would negotiate with players to make an appearance Maria would do very well in this respect but IMO if she reached the semis or so she was more than happy and sometimes didn't go flat out in the later stages leading to numerous losses to players she could have beaten. This is where Margaret had a big advantage over her, Margaret was so competitive and fought every match to the end.
Three Wimbledon's and four US titles is impressive as it is but I always felt her talent could have achieved even more. But she was a joy to watch.
Margaret Thatcher - Michele Bachmann two strong women of our time.