SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian tennis great Maria Bueno, who helped usher in modern women’s tennis, was buried Saturday in her home town shortly after a wake was held for her at the Sao Paulo state Governor’s Palace.
Bueno died Friday in a Sao Paulo hospital after battling mouth cancer. She was 78.
“She was very courageous,” her nephew Pedro Bueno told reporters. “She faced the disease with the same courage she always faced challenges. She played tennis until the very last moment.”
“I think what she did on the court — with courage and determination — is what she did with the illness until the end, until the last days,” he said.
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The president of the Brazilian Tennis Confederation, Rafael Westrupp, said Bueno was “the biggest name in Brazilian tennis” and the sport was “in mourning.”
Born in Sao Paulo, Bueno started playing tennis at the age of 6 and entered her first tournament at 11. At 17, she left Brazil for the United States.
Nicknamed “The Tennis Ballerina” because of her graceful style, Bueno spent most of her career on the 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 won three Wimbledon singles titles and four at the U.S. Open.
Bueno was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1959, 1960, 1964 and 1966. She was the first non-American woman to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the same season.
Bueno was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1978.
Former Brazilian tennis pro Luiz Mattar recalled that Bueno had an “aggressive and very beautiful game.”
“She was an artist on the tennis court. Her death is a great loss for sports in every country in the world.”
Fellow tennis player Thomaz Koch said Bueno was a fun-loving person who loved to tell jokes.
“We used to train together, travel together and played mixed doubles in the Pan-American Games, Roland Garros and other tournaments in Europe,” he told reporters.
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.