Brazilian tennis great Maria Bueno dies after cancer battle

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SAO PAULO (AP) — 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. She was 78.

Bueno was admitted to the Nove de Julho hospital in Sao Paulo in May. The hospital released a statement this week confirming her death, but declined to provide more details out of respect for her family.

“A very sad day for sports. Brazil and the world lost a true tennis legend,” tweeted the International Olympic Committee, one of several sports organizations and professional tennis players to praise Bueno’s contribution.

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 also reached the singles final at both the Australian Open and the French Open.

Bueno was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1978 and was more recently contributing regularly to Brazilian television at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and other major tennis events.

Bueno won her first major at Wimbledon in 1959, when she was 19. In “Tennis Encyclopedia,” Bud Collins described her at the time as “the incomparably balletic and flamboyant Bueno.”

“Volleying beautifully, playing with breathtaking boldness and panache, the lithe Brazilian became the first South American woman to win the Wimbledon singles,” Collins wrote.

Adored in Brazil after winning the trophy, Bueno became one of the symbols of the country’s change from mostly rural to urban and modern.

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.

Billie Jean King, who beat Bueno in the 1966 Wimbledon final and later helped start a women’s professional tennis tour, said the Brazilian was one of the players that made tennis less of a men’s game.

“Maria was a big star who caught the interest of the fans at a time when the men took center stage. She helped lay the groundwork for what was to come,” King told Bueno’s website in 2009. “She deserves to be recognized.”

Bueno said men were key to her game.

“It was only because I trained with men that I developed my speed. People said I looked effortless, but that was from training with guys,” said Bueno, who played without a coach.

From 1957-67, a decade in which she was dominating on the tennis court, Bueno won 65 singles tournaments, 90 doubles titles and 15 in mixed doubles. She was runner-up in 45 other competitions.

Injuries and illness shortened her career, including spending eight months in bed in 1961 because of hepatitis.

Her 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.

Bueno and Court faced each other in five major finals, with Bueno winning two of them.

Bueno’s career took a downturn as the Open era started in 1968 because of arm and leg injuries. But she returned to tennis years later and won her final tournament at the Japan Open in 1974.

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

In 1964, Bueno surprised the public at Wimbledon with a white Tinling dress that had a pink underskirt and matching pink underwear.

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

“Later I wore panties that resembled the club colors, which outraged the club committee and they brought in the all-white clothing rule.”

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.

Despite being considered a future star after winning national tournaments at a young age, Bueno was shy about her achievements.

“I’m not good,” she told The Associated Press after being named Female Athlete of the Year in 1959. “I’m afraid of everyone I play.”

French Open: Iga Swiatek rolls toward possible Coco Gauff rematch

Iga Swiatek
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Iga Swiatek reached the French Open third round without dropping a set, eyeing a third Roland Garros title in four years. Not that she needed the help, but Swiatek’s immediate draw is wide open after the rest of the seeds in her section lost.

Swiatek dispatched 102nd-ranked American Claire Liu 6-4, 6-0 on Thursday, the same score as her first-round win. She gets 80th-ranked Wang Xinyu of China in the round of 32.

The other three seeds in Swiatek’s section all lost in the first round, so the earliest that the world No. 1 could play another seed is the quarterfinals. And that would be No. 6 Coco Gauff, who was runner-up to Swiatek last year.

Gauff plays her second-round match later Thursday against 61st-ranked Austrian Julia Grabher. Gauff also doesn’t have any seeds in her way before a possible Swiatek showdown.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Swiatek, who turned 22 on Wednesday, came into this year’s French Open without the invincibility of a year ago, when she was 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury, but said it wasn’t serious. That diagnosis appears to have been spot-on through two matches this week, though her serve was broken twice in the first set of each match.

While the men’s draw has been upended by 14-time champion Rafael Nadal‘s pre-event withdrawal and No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev‘s loss in the first round, the top women have taken care of business.

Nos. 2, 3 and 4 seeds Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, American Jessica Pegula and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan also reached the third round without dropping a set.

Though all of them have beaten Swiatek in 2023, the Pole remains the favorite to lift the trophy a week from Saturday. She can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

She can also become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

Swiatek doesn’t dwell on it.

“I never even played Serena or Monica Seles,” she said. “I’m kind of living my own life and having my own journey.”

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Penny Oleksiak to miss world swimming championships

Penny Oleksiak
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Seven-time Olympic medalist Penny Oleksiak of Canada will miss July’s world swimming championships because she does not expect to be recovered enough from knee and shoulder injuries.

“The bar that we set was, can she be as good as she’s ever been at these world championships?” coach Ryan Mallette said in a press release. “We just don’t feel like we’re going to be ready to be 100 percent yet this summer. Our focus is to get her back to 100 percent as soon as possible to get ready for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.”

Oleksiak, who owns the Canadian record of seven Olympic medals (across all sports), missed Canada’s trials meet for worlds two months ago due to the injuries. She was still named to the team at the time in hope that she would be ready in time for worlds.

The 22-year-old returned to competition last month at a Mare Nostrum meet in Barcelona, after which she chose to focus on continued rehab rather than compete at worlds in Fukuoka, Japan.

“Swimming at Mare Nostrum was a checkpoint for worlds, and I gave it my best shot,” Oleksiak said in the release. “We reviewed my swims there, and it showed me the level I want to get back to. Now I need to focus on my rehab to get back to where I want to be and put myself in position to be at my best next season.”

Oleksiak had knee surgery last year to repair a meniscus. After that, she developed a left shoulder injury.

In 2016, Oleksiak tied for Olympic 100m freestyle gold with American Simone Manuel. She also earned 100m butterfly silver in Rio and 200m free bronze in Tokyo, along with four relay medals between those two Games.

At last year’s worlds, she earned four relay medals and placed fourth in the 100m free.

She anchored the Canadian 4x100m free relay to silver behind Australia at the most recent Olympics and worlds.

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