Maria Bueno, a Brazilian tennis great who won three Wimbledon singles titles and four at the U.S. Open in the 1950s and 1960s, and helped usher in modern women's tennis, has died after battling mouth cancer.
Known for her stylishness and her exciting way of playing, she was the first South American woman to win the Wimbledon singles title.
Bueno shot to global fame when she claimed her maiden grand slam at Wimbledon in 1959 and her second at the US Nationals two months later.
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She also got to the finals of the French championship in 1964 and the Australian in 1965. She teamed with USA star Althea Gibson to win the women's doubles title at Wimbledon in 1958 - the first of her 19 victories in Grand Slam events, including seven singles championships, 11 in doubles and one in mixed doubles.
The mouth cancer was discovered previous year and her condition became serious a few days ago when she was transferred to the 9 de Julho Hospital in Sao Paulo. "She played tennis until the very last moment".
Bueno's career took a downturn as the Open era started in 1968 because of arm and leg injuries. Upon her death, the country's president, Michel Temer, said Bueno "will always be remembered as the No. 1 of tennis in the hearts of all Brazilians". She was also the No. 1 ranked tennis player in the world in 1959, 1960, 1964 and 1966.
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She was later a commentator at major tennis tournaments for Brazilian television. She was voted female athlete of the year in a nationwide poll of sportswriters conducted by The Associated Press.
A self-taught prodigy, she brought grace to the game and was a dominant force, BBC Americas editor Leonardo Rocha writes.
"There was a gasp from one end of the court", Ms. Bueno later recalled. She went to the U.S. at the age of 17 to take her career to a higher level and had a strong determination to improve every single element of her game until she retired. "And the people at the other end didn't know why, until I changed ends and served from there".
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