The first Latin American to win Wimbledon and US Open in the same year, left a legacy difficult to match on the continent
When in 1951 María Bueno won her first tournament without receiving any type of professional training and barely was 12 years old, many thought that the Brazilian could mark a before and after in the history of Latin American tennis, and they were not wrong.
From that moment, a series of accomplishments were concatenated that made her one of the most influential Latin American athletes of her time and the most successful South American athlete in history. The tennis player was admired and respected until the day of her death, last Friday, June 8 in her native Sao Paulo, at 78 years of age, victim of cancer.
Many recognized her for her style of play. The president of Brazil, Michel Temer, lamented the death of Bueno, whom he described as "idol of Brazilian sports" and recalled that she was known as the "dancer" for her "lightness and elegance" on the tracks, reported El Universal of Colombia.
"She will always be remembered as the number one tennis player in the hearts of all Brazilians," the Brazilian president wrote on his Twitter profile.
Com pesar recebemos a notícia da morte da tenista Maria Esther Bueno. Ídolo do esporte brasileiro, ficou conhecida como bailarina pela leveza e elegância nas quadras. Será sempre lembrada como a nº 1 do tênis no coração de todos os brasileiros
- Michel Temer (@MichelTemer) June 8, 2018
Not long ago, in 2005, Bueno played for the last time before her audience in an exhibition, while, in July 2016, she was one of the bearers of the Olympic torch at the Rio Olympics, according to the BBC.
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What made her special?
She was self-taught. She did not have formal trainers in his teens. Even so, Bueno managed to win, with 18 years, the Italian Championship of 1958. Even that same year, Bueno won along with the American Althea Gibson, the Wimbledon doubles tournament.
With her elegance, she gave tennis grace and became a dominant force, according to the BBC journalist Leonardo Rocha. However, not everything was "rosy", as she began to suffer from problems in the elbow, which she attributed to the heavy wooden rackets that were played in her time, BBC reviewed.
Not in vain, the sports commentator of the BBC, John Barrett called her: "The swallow of Sao Paulo", for her skill and elegance to dominate the field.
At a time when it was very difficult to see prominent Latinas in a sport dominated mainly by North Americans and Europeans, Bueno prevailed using wooden rackets, which, after changing to a more ergonomic design, have matched a little more the feminine competition.
BBC in its report says that Bueno was dedicated to the television commentary in the sports channel of Brazil, SporTV, months after retiring from professional activity in 1977.
A 'machine' to win matches
In 1959, Bueno won her first Wimbledon individual title, being the first South American to win it, after defeating Darlene Hard from the United States 6-4 and 6-3 in the final. The Latin American athlete won 19 Grand Slams during her career, distributed in 7 singles, 11 in doubles, 1 in mixed doubles in the late 50's and early 60's.
In four seasons, 1959, 1960, 1964 and 1966, she became the number one in the world. In 1978, a year after her retirement, Bueno entered the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Her resume reflected 589 international tournaments won.
The athlete became the number one tennis player in the world in 1959 and was awarded with the prize of the Associated Press (AP), news agency for Best Athlete of the Year. Many still remember what she said: "I'm not good, I'm afraid of everyone I play with," according to the BBC. The athlete would return to occupy the first position in the world ranking in 1960, 1964,and 1966.
Wimbledon was her house. There, Bueno won again in 1960 and 1964 in singles, while in 1965 she did the same in doubles with the American Billie Jean King. All this without forgetting that, although she never won in singles at Roland Garros, she also collected her 1960 title in mixed doubles with Australian Bob Howe.
The world of tennis began to pay homage to Bueno, shortly after the her death.
The Brazilian star Beatriz Haddad Maia said about the legendary tennis player "always showed great desire to fight", both on the courts and outside them. The also Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci said that "she had been a pioneer of our country, where few people knew about sport and at a time when everything was much more difficult".
Bueno opened the doors of tennis to Latin Americans. A Twitter message published by the Tennis Hall of Fame describes Bueno as a "consummate champion who leaves an enduring legacy of inspiration for generations of players in her native Brazil and beyond."
Latin American Post | Onofre Zambrano
Translated from “Todo lo que deberías saber de la imbatible María Bueno, “La Golondrina de Sao Paulo””