Continued from Part 1
By May 2004, 17-year-old Maria had entered the world’s Top-20.
In July, 10 years after leaving her home, family and friends behind, she stunned the tennis world.
Seeded No. 13, she beat Serena Williams to win Wimbledon, and climbed up to world No. 4.
The final piece in Maria’s tennis development had been when Bollettieri employed a special trainer to work on her physical fitness for one hour every day.
This, according to Maria, resulted in the improvement she made leading up to her Wimbledon victory, and gave her the ability to compete physically with the likes of the Williams sisters.
Bollettieri, an ex-paratrooper himself, said of her:
“She is extremely strict, disciplined and a perfectionist. She plays tennis like she’s preparing for an attack, a battle. Every shot has a purpose.
She runs for every single ball, there’s no monkey business, she will smile but it’s a bloody damn business.”
After winning Wimbledon, her rise continued and she became the world No. 1 in August 2005—a goal she had from being a young girl.
She has since won the 2006 U.S. Open, the 2008 Australian Open and the 2012 French Open.
Maria once said:
“Why would you want to be No. 20, and then when you get to No. 20 it’s like you don’t want to be No. 1, you know?
It’s like shoot for the moon, if you miss, you’ll still be amongst the stars, so why not want to become number one?”
She later added, “If you don’t want to be No. 1 in the world, then why even start?”
Tracy Austin—who knows Maria and her father, Yuri, very well—said of her:
“Some kids have it easy, you have to ask where the drive is coming from?
But Maria’s background has definitely contributed to her determination on court. Talk about having a will and drive to win!”
LIVING THE DREAM
The result of years of nearly-constant travel—and the exclusion of anything close to a normal childhood—had, by mid-2012, helped Maria earn on-court prize money of over $21 million.
However, due in large part to her stunning good looks, she is the most marketed sports woman in the world, regularly earning over $25 million a year—an amount which she once cheekily described as, “Not enough to live on!”
Not only is she beautiful, but she backs it up with an unquestioned desire to win and improve.
“Tennis is what has made me what I am, but what am I supposed to do?” she said, “it’s not my fault that I’m beautiful, beauty sells and I’m not going to make myself deliberately ugly am I?”
From my book, "So you want to win Wimbledon? - How to turn the dream into reality" - available from Amazon.