Brazil­ian cap­tured 3 Wim­ble­don sin­gles ti­tle

The Washington Post Sunday - - OBITUARIES - MARIA BUENO, 78 BY MATT SCHUDEL matt.schudel@wash­

Maria Bueno, a Brazil­ian ten­nis star who was one of top play­ers of the 1950s and 1960s, with three sin­gles ti­tles at Wim­ble­don and four at the U.S. Open, died June 8 at a hospi­tal in Sao Paulo. She was 78.

Her death was an­nounced on her of­fi­cial web­site and by the In­ter­na­tional Ten­nis Hall of Fame. She had oral cancer.

Ms. Bueno, who won her first na­tional cham­pi­onship in Brazil at age 14, was known for her lithe, graceful style on the court and for her pow­er­ful serve and back­hand. She teamed with U.S. 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.

Ms. Bueno, who spent most of her com­pet­ing as an am­a­teur, held the No. 1 rank­ing in women’s ten­nis in 1959, 1960, 1964 and 1966. In his au­thor­i­ta­tive Ten­nis En­cy­clo­pe­dia, Bud Collins called Ms. Bueno “in­com­pa­ra­bly bal­letic and flam­boy­ant” and said she played “with breath­tak­ing bold­ness and panache.”

In 1959, Ms. Bueno be­came the first non-Amer­i­can in more than 20 years to win the women’s ti­tle at Wim­ble­don, de­feat­ing Cal­i­for­nian Dar­lene Hard in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3. A New York Times re­porter mar­veled at Ms. Bueno’s “flu­ent and al­most flaw­less per­for­mance” and her “cat­like cov­er­age” of the court.

Later that year, she won the first of her four U.S. Open ti­tles and was named the year’s top fe­male ath­lete. She re­peated as Wim­ble­don cham­pion in 1960, but just as she was be­com­ing the dom­i­nant women’s player in her sport, she was felled by a case of hep­ati­tis, which kept her out of ac­tion for most of 1961.

As Ms. Bueno con­tin­ued her reign as one of the decade’s top play­ers, she de­vel­oped a strong ri­valry with Mar­garet Smith Court, beat­ing the Aus­tralian player in the fi­nals of the U.S. Open in 1963. Ms. Bueno won the U.S. Open again the fol­low­ing year, dis­patch­ing Ca­role Graeb­ner in just 25 min­utes, 6-0, 6-1, and won her fourth ti­tle in the tour­na­ment in 1966, over Nancy Richey.

In 1964, Ms. Bueno lost to Court at the French Open, but the two met again in the Wim­ble­don fi­nals, with Ms. Bueno leap­ing for joy after win­ning in three sets, 6-4, 7-9, 6-3. She reached the fi­nals at Wim­ble­don two more times, only to lose to Court in 1965 and to Bil­lie Jean King in 1966.

Ms. Bueno was the first and so far the only fe­male player from South Amer­ica to win the Wim­ble­don sin­gles ti­tle and is one of only eight women to win at least three cham­pi­onships at both Wim­ble­don and the U.S. Open.

“She was the reign­ing queen of ten­nis in her day,” King, who won the 1965 Wim­ble­don dou­bles cham­pi­onship with Ms. Bueno as her part­ner, told the New York Times in 1987. “She just pro­jected well, and was so graceful with long, flow­ing strokes. She had all the things peo­ple liked in a cham­pion.”

Maria Es­ther An­dion Bueno was born Oct. 11, 1939, in Sao Paulo. She grew up across the street from a ten­nis club, where her par­ents played. She learned the sport from her fa­ther, a vet­eri­nar­ian and busi­ness­man, and from read­ing books about ten­nis.

She usu­ally prac­ticed with men — in­clud­ing her brother, who be­came a star col­le­giate player in the United States — and mod­eled her boom­ing serve on pho­to­graphs of 1920s ten­nis star Bill Tilden.

Ms. Bueno, who spoke five lan­guages, was an out­stand­ing swimmer in her youth and briefly taught at an ele­men­tary school in Sao Paulo.

An arm in­jury forced her out of com­pe­ti­tion from 1969 to 1974. When she re­turned to ac­tion, she was still good enough to com­pete at Wim­ble­don through 1980, when she was 40. She later be­came a lead­ing ten­nis com­men­ta­tor on Brazil­ian tele­vi­sion.

The ten­nis sta­dium for the 2016 Sum­mer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was named in Ms. Bueno’s honor.

A com­plete list of sur­vivors could not be con­firmed.

In 1962, de­signer Ted Tin­ling cre­ated sev­eral out­fits for Ms. Bueno with col­ored skirt lin­ings and un­der­pants, in vi­o­la­tion of a Wim­ble­don rule that play­ers dress en­tirely in white.

“She had this fan­tas­tic brood­ing char­ac­ter, the im­pres­sion of an im­mi­nent storm,” Tin­ling told Sports Il­lus­trated in 1969, “and I had to il­lus­trate that in some way. Color had to be used some­where.”

One of Ms. Bueno’s out­fits was lined in shock­ing pink, and when­ever she leaned down to be­gin her serve, spec­ta­tors tit­tered over the flash of for­bid­den color.

“There was a gasp from one end of the court,” Ms. Bueno later re­called. “And the peo­ple at the other end didn’t know why, un­til I changed ends and served from there.”

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.


Maria Bueno in a 1959 game in Aus­tralia. A re­porter mar­veled at her “flu­ent and al­most flaw­less per­for­mance” on the court.

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