Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

Brazilian tennis great Maria Bueno dies after battle with cancer

Brazilian tennis legend Maria Bueno passes away at the age of 78. She had oral cancer.

The victor of 19 Grand Slam titles - seven in singles, 11 in doubles and one in mixed doubles - Bueno was nicknamed the tennis ballerina for her elegant playing style. She was also the No. 1 ranked tennis player in the world in 1959, 1960, 1964 and 1966. And although she once told reporters "I'm afraid of everyone I play", her glory days were only just beginning. She was bedridden for eight months by hepatitis she contracted in 1961 and she had knee surgery in 1965.

French Open organizers paid tribute to Bueno with a minute's applause ahead of the women's singles final on Saturday.

Bueno's last major title came in 1968 when she won the doubles title at the U.S. Open alongside Margaret Court — one of her biggest rivals in singles.

She successfully defended her Wimbledon crown the following year and claimed back-to-back US Nationals titles in 1963-64. She won three Wimbledon singles titles and four at the U.S. Open.

"We send our condolences to the friends and loved ones of Maria Bueno, a four-time #USOpen singles and doubles champion". "She just projected well, and was so graceful with long, flowing strokes".

Maria Esther Andion Bueno was born October 11, 1939, in Sao Paulo. Both her father and mother played, and she was handling a racket at age 6.

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Retiring from the sport in 1977, she became a commentator herself for the Brazilian channel SporTV.

Nicknamed the "Sao Paulo Swallow" for her ability to dominate the net, Bueno was a teen prodigy despite having no formal coaching, according to the International Hall of Fame, which she entered in 1978. When she returned to action, she was still good enough to compete at Wimbledon through 1980, when she was 40. She was voted female athlete of the year in a nationwide poll of sportswriters conducted by The Associated Press.

The tennis stadium for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was named in Ms. Bueno's honor. "Color had to be used somewhere".

Bueno said men were key to her game.

"There was a gasp from one end of the court", Ms. Bueno later recalled.

Thomaz Bellucci said she was "a pioneer in our country, where few people knew the sport and at a time when everything was much more difficult".

"Later I wore panties that resembled the club colors, which outraged the club committee and they brought in the all-white clothing rule".

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