Millennium Post

Brazilian tennis great Maria Bueno dies aged 78

Sao Paulo: Maria Bueno, a Brazilian tennis great who won three Wimbledon singles titles and four at the US Open in the 1950s and 1960s, and helped usher in modern women's tennis, has died after suffering from mouth cancer. She was 78.

Bueno was admitted to the Nove de Julho hospital in São Paulo in May. The hospital released a statement this week confirming her death, but declined to provide more details out of respect for her family.

"A very sad day for sports. Brazil and the world lost a true tennis legend," tweeted the International Olympic Committee, one of several sports organisations and professional tennis players to pay tribute to Bueno.

Nicknamed "The Tennis Ballerina" because of her graceful style, Bueno spent most of her career on court before the professional era. She won 19 Grand Slam titles overall, seven in singles, 11 in doubles and one in mixed doubles, between 1959 and 1966. She also reached the singles final at both the Australian and the French Open.

Bueno was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1978 and more recently contributed regularly to Brazilian television at Wimbledon, the US Open and other major tennis events.

She won her first major at Wimbledon in 1959, when she was 19. In Tennis Encyclopedia, Bud Collins describes her as "the incomparably balletic and flamboyant Bueno".

Bueno was ranked No 1 in the world in 1959, 1960, 1964 and 1966. She was also the first non-US woman to win Wimbledon and the US Open in the same season.

Billie Jean King, who beat Bueno in the 1966 Wimbledon final and later helped start a women's professional tennis tour, said the Brazilian was one of the players that made tennis less of a men's game.

"Maria was a big star who caught the interest of the fans at a time when the men took centre stage. She helped lay the groundwork for what was to come," King told Bueno's website in 2009. "She deserves to be recognised."

Her last major title came in 1968, when she won the doubles title at the US Open alongside Margaret Court, one of her biggest rivals in singles.

Bueno and Court faced each other in five major finals, of which Bueno won two.

Her career took a downturn as the Open era started in 1968 because of injury, but she returned to tennis years later and won her final tournament at the Japan Open in 1974.

Born in São Paulo, Bueno started playing tennis at the age of six and entered her first tournament at 11. She left Brazil for the US at 17.

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