LISBON (Reuters) - Portuguese qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito’s stunning win over third seed Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon has captured the imagination at home with media hailing her triumph as the country’s greatest tennis moment.
Larcher de Brito, ranked 131 in the world, was bombarded with attention from journalists and fans after sending four-time grand slam winner Sharapova crashing out 6-3 6-4 in the second round out on Court Two.
“I know the Portuguese president is trying to talk to me,” she told Portuguese daily A Bola. “I‘m in roaming mode (on my mobile) so it will cost me, but when I finish all these interviews, of course I will call him.”
Portugal has three sports dailies whose front pages rarely feature anything other than football news, but on Thursday Larcher de Brito’s heroics merited wide coverage.
“It’s the happiest day ever in Portuguese tennis,” A Bola daily wrote on its front page next to a photo of a smiling Larcher de Brito.
“For us Portuguese, the most famous of the grand slam (tournaments) already has a winner: Michelle Larcher de Brito,” Portuguese O Jogo daily wrote on Thursday.
“She may not be pure talent in the professional circuit but she is a phenomenon in terms of belief and determination”.
Larcher de Brito was best known at Wimbledon for the wailing that accompanies every shot but the 20-year-old, who is 1.65 meters tall, will hope this win will take her to new heights.
She faces Italy’s Karin Knapp in the third round on Friday when she will be favourite against her 104th ranked opponent.
Larcher de Brito moved to the United States at a young age after her father and coach Antonio Brito was unimpressed with her career prsospects at home.
Now there is hope that she will inspire the development of the sport in Portugal, which has been further hampered by an acute financial crisis.
“In a country struggling with a deep economic crisis, with sports federations suffering budget cuts, the triumph of this child-prodigy may open a lot of doors,” Record sports daily wrote.
Reporting by Daniel Alvarenga; editing by Ken Ferris