Brazilian tennis great Maria Bueno dies after battle with cancer

Former Brazilian great Maria Esther Bueno winner of 19 Grand Slam singles and doubles titles from 1959-68 plays during a tennis exhibition on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro Brazil

Brazilian tennis player Maria Bueno, who won three Wimbledon singles titles, has died aged 78 following a battle with mouth cancer. "She played tennis until the very last moment".

Bueno shot to global fame when she claimed her maiden grand slam at Wimbledon in 1959 and her second at the US Nationals two months later.

"She was very courageous", her nephew Pedro Bueno told reporters.

Bueno's death dominated Brazilian Twitter on Friday night, with tributes pouring in.

The president of the Brazilian Tennis Confederation, Rafael Westrupp, said Bueno was "the biggest name in Brazilian tennis" and the sport was "in mourning".

Brazilian tennis star Maria Bueno has passed away at the age of 78.

"She was a pioneer in our country, where few people knew the sport and at a time when everything was much more hard", said tennis player Thomaz Bellucci.

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But she rated the 1959 Wimbledon singles title as her greatest career achievement.

One tennis writer, John Barrett, called her "the elegant queen of Brazilian tennis".

"In my era, tennis was totally amateur".

"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.

For years after retirement she was a commentator on Brazil's SporTV.

Nicknamed "The Tennis Ballerina" because of her graceful style, Bueno won seven grand slam titles in the 1950s and 1960s and was South America's most successful player. She was also the No. 1 ranked tennis player in the world in 1959, 1960, 1964 and 1966. She also reached the singles final at both the Australian Open and the French Open.

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