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Brazilian great Bueno dies aged 78

12 June 2018

Born in the city of Sao Paulo, Maria Esther Bueno made history as the first South American woman to win the Wimbledon singles title.

She also reached the final of the 1964 French Championships and the 1965 Australian Championships but lost to Margaret Court at Roland Garros and retired hurt against the Australian great at Kooyong.

She won her first major title at Wimbledon in 1959, when she was 19.

She had been suffering from mouth cancer since past year and was hospitalized in May.

She swept the Brazilian scene, then the Caribbean circuit, and grabbed global attention by winning the Italian Championships in 1958, beating the best English and Australian players.

FILE In this July 4, 1959 file photo, Maria Bueno of Brazil holds up the trophy after winning the women's singles final in the All-England Lawn Tennis championships at Wimbledon.

An arm injury forced her out of competition from 1969 to 1974. 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 ranked No. 1 in the world in 1959, 1960, 1964 and 1966.

Later that year, she won the first of her four U.S. Open titles and was named the year's top female athlete.

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A self-taught prodigy, she brought grace to the game and was a dominant force, BBC Americas editor Leonardo Rocha writes.

Bueno was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1978.

She was labelled the "Sao Paulo Swallow" for her ability to dominate the net by former BBC Sport commentator John Barrett.

Off the court, Bueno also had an interest in fashion and played in dresses tailored by English couturier Ted Tinling.

Maria Esther Andion Bueno was born October 11, 1939, in Sao Paulo. At 17, she left Brazil for the United States.

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

The keepers of Wimbledon tradition at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club were not amused and passed a stricter rule forbidding players to wear any color on the court other than white.

Brazilian great Bueno dies aged 78