Portuguese qualifier Michelle Larcher De Brito celebrated her shock Wimbledon second round win over Maria Sharapova by thanking her father for reviving her love for tennis.
Until Wednesday, Larcher De Brito was more famous for the loud grunting that accompanied her shots than for her achievements on the court.
The 20-year-old was dubbed Wimbledon’s ‘scream queen’ and mocked by fans when her banshee wailing first shattered the peace and quiet of the genteel All England Club in 2009.
The criticism proved dispiriting for Larcher De Brito and her game suffered as a result.
But encouraged by her parents, especially her father, Antonio, who doubles as her coach, the Florida-based player realised she had too much talent to toss away.
“If you lose enough times, you think, What am I doing? That’s where my family stepped in and helped me get pumped up,” she said.
“I’ve been working extra hard in these practices, giving 120 percent in practices. My dad really pushed me a lot.
“When I was 16 I was in the top 100 and everybody was comparing me to Martina Hingis, expecting me to win a Grand Slam at that age.
“But that doesn’t happen anymore, winning Grand Slams so young. Tennis is so competitive now and so hard, it’s hard to stay there.
“I can’t say enough good things about my father because he helped me a lot. It’s easy to lose motivation. But with these wins, it’s definitely going to help.”
Her result have gradually improved, but even so she arrived at Wimbledon ranked a lowly 131 and had never beaten a player in the top five before shocking Sharapova, the world number three and a former Wimbledon champion, 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 34 minutes of high drama on Court Two.
“I’m not one of those players who is going to make up excuses like I was sick or injured, none of that. I just simply wasn’t playing well. I had no motivation,” Larcher De Brito said.
“I’m not going to lie. I did drop off the radar a little bit.
“I’m just lucky that I had my parents next to me, supporting me, helping me to keep going. It was really tough for me at one stage. The only people I had left was my mom, my dad, my brothers.
“That’s just why it makes this win so much sweeter and it makes me happier that I’m here.”
Sharapova hit more winners and aces than Larcher De Brito, but the Portuguese gradually wore down her more illustrious opponent with a relentless diet of powerful groundstrokes.
Those shots were delivered with less grunting than in the past, although Larcher De Brito, who faces Karin Knapp of Italy for a place in the last 16, insisted she hadn’t deliberately toned down the vocals.
“I haven’t cut down on anything. I’m the player I was when I was 16,” she said.
“It wasn’t fair because people blew it way out of proportion. But it’s behind me. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. It’s already an old topic, the grunting.
“People keep going on and on about it. I’m not the only one. Many top players that we know and love grunt.
“They criticised me pretty badly. But I’m here again and I just try to stay focused and ignore it.”