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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.”

Maria Sharapova wraps up tennis career after nearly two decades, career Slam

Maria Sharapova
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Maria Sharapova has announced her retirement after a professional tennis career that includes five Grand Slam wins, 36 singles titles and an Olympic silver medal.

Sharapova was only 17 when she won her first major in 2004 at Wimbledon. She won the U.S. Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008 before completing her career Grand Slam in the 2012 French Open. She won the French Open again in 2014.

After moving from Russia to Florida at age 9 to train at the Bollettieri Academy, she made her professional debut just after her 14th birthday in 2001. She graduated to top-level events and majors within two years and reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2003.

In 2004, she upset Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams at Wimbledon and beat Williams again at the Tour Championships.

By 2005, the 6-foot-2 player had claimed the top spot in the world rankings. She remained in the top five for most of the next four years before suffering an injury to her right shoulder that limited her tournament schedule in 2008 and 2009. By 2011, she had reclaimed her status as a top-five player and remained there until 2016.

Her career declined after a positive drug test at the 2016 Australian Open. The substance in question, meldonium, had been given by Russian doctors to many athletes.

An initial suspension of two years was reduced to 15 months, but she wasn’t able to get back to her previous form. She won one more tournament in 2017 and reached the quarterfinals of the 2018 French Open, but she fared poorly in sporadic appearances in 2019. Her last match was a loss to Donna Vekic in the first round of the Australian Open in January.

SEE: Sharapova discusses reduced ban on TODAY

Her meldonium suspension also cost her commercial sponsorships and her role as a UN Development Program ambassador, which she earned with her work to help survivors of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.

She was involved in the Olympics as a silver medalist in 2012, losing to Williams in the final, and as one of the final torch bearers in the relay to the 2014 Olympics opening ceremony in her home country.

She’s also third on the all-time WTA earnings list behind Serena and Venus Williams, taking in more than $38m in her career on top of lucrative endorsement deals.

Federica Brignone hopes World Cup rival Mikaela Shiffrin will return soon

Shiffrin and Brignone
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Mikaela Shiffrin‘s prolonged absence from the World Cup Alpine skiing circuit has opened the door for Italy’s Federica Brignone to break the American’s grip on the season title, but Brignone hopes her friend and rival will be back in competition soon.

“I really do hope that she will return soon for herself so she can do again what she loves most,” Brignone said.

Brignone took the season lead from Shiffrin, who has won the last three World Cup overall titles, on Sunday and has a 73-point advantage with 11 of the season’s 40 races remaining. She also leads Shiffrin by 74 points in the giant slalom standings.

READ: Brignone moves into World Cup lead

No Italian woman has won the overall World Cup. Brignone was fifth in 2017 and won the Alpine combined discipline title last season.

Brignone will have a chance to clinch another Alpine combined discipline title and extend her overall lead in her home country this weekend. While some other sports events in Italy have been canceled or otherwise affected by the coronavirus outbreak, the host resort of La Thuile has so far been spared from the virus’ spread.

Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, the only other skier with a realistic chance of winning the overall trophy, is dealing with a knee injury and might not be able to race this weekend. Vhlova leads Shiffrin by 20 points in the slalom standings.

Shiffrin has not competed since the death of her father Feb. 2, and she has not announced plans to return. She was not on pace to match her astounding 17-win 2018-19 season but still had six wins and had reached the podium in 13 of 19 races.

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