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São Paulo | Maria Bueno dies, aged 78

São Paulo | Maria Bueno dies, aged 78

It is with great sadness that the tennis world has learned of Maria Esther Bueno’s death in São Paulo on 8 June after a long battle with cancer at the age of 78. She had her family around her and it was peaceful at the last.

Bueno was admitted to the Nove de Julho hospital in São Paulo on 11 May for pain control and to start immunotherapy treatment, and remained optimistic about returning to London for Wimbledon this summer, as she has done for so many years.

Despite all the efforts of her medical team, however, the cancer, apparently a virulent form of Merkel cell carcinoma, continued to spread.

It started on the lip in 2016 and the cells were surgically removed. She then underwent extensive radiotherapy early last year at the Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo, and while it was thought she was in remission for a while, it unfortunately metastasised elsewhere over ensuing months.

She continued to play tennis but felt pains and, at first, thought it to be an injury, but after new tests, it was discovered that a new cancer had spread to other organs of the body.

Bueno endured all this very privately, not wishing to give rise to speculation and to be able to undergo her treatment without undue stress, fighting bravely to the end and remaining positive and hopeful.

She was still lucid and last Tuesday watched the match between Novak Djokovic and the Italian Marco Cecchinato in the quarter-finals of Roland Garros.

The funeral takes place today, Saturday, in Brazil from 8,00am to 3.00 pm at the Oval Office of the Government House of São Paulo.

In a statement, the Governor of São Paulo, Márcio France (PSB) decreed mourning in the State for three days: “The Government of the State of São Paulo has honoured Maria Esther Bueno with the Grand Cross of the Order of Ipiranga, the highest state distinction. My feelings and prayers are with the family and friends of this [exceptional] woman, who was an example and leaves a legacy for young people and athletes, particularly in São Paulo and Brazil. On this occasion, an official mourning decree in the state for three days.”

Revered in Brazil and around the world as the greatest players of all time, Bueno achieved the rank of World No 1 in 1959, 1960, 1964 and 1966.

She won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 1959 at the age of 19 years and, in 1960, won the Grand Slam in doubles by winning the titles in Australia, Paris, Wimbledon and the US Open

In total, she won 589 titles throughout her career and entered the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1978.

Four years ago, Bueno also received the Anchieta medal and the Diploma of Gratitude of Sao Paulo, the highest distinction of the city in which she was born.

The following year, she received a tribute at the opening of the Olympic Tennis Centre in her name at the Olympic Games in Rio.

“I don’t have words to express my gratitude and how much I’m happy,” Bueno said in 2015.

“This is one of the happiest days of my life and, without doubt, one of the greatest honours I’ve ever received in my life.

“I’m tremendously excited. I can’t tell you how much it means being able to put my name in a wonderful Stadium, an Olympic Stadium.

“I’m sure the Olympics in Brazil will be the best in the world. Everyone asked if the games would be ready, nobody trusted us.”

The tennis icon was the poster child of one of the sponsors of the Olympics and led the Olympic flame in the torch relay in July 2016 as well as participating in the closing ceremony in which she proudly carried the flag during the Brazilian national anthem.

Over the past two decades she has been a tireless ambassador of the sport she loved and commentated on TV Globo/SporTV, her latest appearance being in February this year when she did the transmission of the Rio Open.

Bueno always said that she liked to give the backstory of the players, the events and the game instead of doing a review of the matches.

It made perfect sense to a legend of the game, who turned tennis into a ballet.

Maria Esther Bueno is now an eternal icon of Brazilian sport.






About The Author

Barbara Wancke

Barbara Wancke is a Tennis Threads Tennis Correspondent who has been involved in the sport for over 40 years, not only as a former player, umpire and coach but primarily as an administrator and tennis writer contributing over the years to Lawn Tennis, Tennis World, and Tennis Today. She has worked with the Dunlop Sports Co, IMG and at the ITF as Director of Women’s Tennis, responsible, amongst other things, for the running of the Federation Cup (now Fed Cup), and acting as Technical Director for tennis at the Seoul Olympics (1988). She subsequently set up her own tennis consultancy Tennis Interlink and was elected to the Board of the TIA UK where she became the Executive Administrator and Executive Vice President until she stood down in July 2014 and is currently an Honorary Vice President.

144 Comments

  1. Penelope Douglas

    Lovely gifted graceful player. A lovely graceful lady too.

    Reply
  2. Valerie Stephens

    I started watching Wimbledon in 1964 and loved watching Maria play.😣

    Reply
  3. June Haswell

    A joy to watch-power,elegance & grace.
    RIP Maria🌸

    Reply
  4. Pat Brown

    What’d her win Wimbledon such an elegant player RIP xx

    Reply
  5. Alma Fleming

    A fantastic player.very elegant .a very attractive lady.May she R.I.P.

    Reply
  6. Jean Beck

    Watching her play was a joy. Maria was always an elegant player. Sad news.

    Reply
  7. Enid Short

    How very sad to hear she has died! she was a very elegant player and my favourite female player of the time.

    Reply
  8. Angela Stacey

    She was the forerunner of today’s ladies tennis.

    Reply
  9. Wayne Sherlock

    My condolences to her family I watched her play (on the t.v.)many times and she was lovely

    Reply
  10. Malcolm Stanwix

    Gifted athlete- Elegantly & graceful. RIP Lady M….

    Reply
  11. Judy Noble

    RIP Maria a beautiful tennis player x

    Reply
  12. Vali Raikes

    She was my favourite back in the day. I loved her serve, not seen since in any other player. So sad.

    Reply
  13. Pauline Keates

    A beautiful stylish champion, great to watch, so sad, RIP Maria

    Reply
  14. Maria Cassidy

    Sad news. One of the best earlier tennis legends

    Reply
  15. Beryl Smith

    So sad to hear this an amazing tennis player.

    Reply
  16. Sue Gayles

    Deepest respect. Thankyou for the memories.xx

    Reply
  17. Alastair McIver

    Immense player and personality who I had the privilege of interviewing…sad news…

    Reply
  18. Pauline Cloynes

    Rest in peace Maria,you truly were a great champion.

    Reply
  19. Kay Kadzionis

    Such a graceful and talented player. A pleasure to watch and no grunting or screeching. Just pure tennis. She was my first idol. A true legend. R.I.P Maria.

    Reply
  20. Brenda Anne Brown

    R.i.p maria bueno she was the first woman tennis player I saw on the tv when I was 12

    Reply
  21. Jane Doherty

    The most elegant player to grace a court. I remember her shocking pink knickers one Wimbledon….but worn under a lovely tennis dress. She was about eighteen. She had a style of tennis that is sadly missing now.

    Reply
  22. Barbara Gray

    Very sad. A brilliant tennis player, and her pink frilly pants caused a great stir at Wimbledon. R.I.P

    Reply
    • Sue Streeter

      Can’t believe you mentioned her last week. She was a wonderful ambassador for ladies tennis.

      Reply
  23. Linda Truin

    Sad to hear this news. She was a great tennis player and always wore beautiful tennis dresses that were legendary. RIP

    Reply
  24. Brenda Beck

    I remember when I started to watch tennis she was graceful and a beautiful person her knickers were legionary but the grace shone thru rest in peace Maria you was a legion 🙏😢

    Reply
  25. Veronica May

    So sorry to hear of this very sad news RIP Maria x

    Reply
  26. Phil Harvey

    RIP To a Legend , you were one of the best , a true champion

    Reply
  27. Mary Attwood

    Such sad news R.I.P.Maria lovely tennis player 🙏🙏🙏👏👏👏

    Reply
  28. Marie Maxwell

    Sad….. I enjoyed watching Maria play RIP sweet lady 🌹

    Reply
  29. Elizabeth Hook

    R.I.P Maria and name from bygone days who will be missed 😢

    Reply
  30. Deena Rodger

    So sad, she was a great tennis player 😢😢

    Reply
  31. Pat Futter

    I remember her in the early days when I was just getting into tennis at about fifteen

    Reply
  32. Andy Grahamme

    She made hitting a tennis ball a work of art.

    Reply
  33. Alison Jones

    Always loved Maria Bueno!! Very feminine tennis player!!!

    Reply
  34. George Ross

    A beautiful woman and a beautiful player, RIP Maria x

    Reply
  35. Terry Wright

    Great tennis player,gracious too
    R I P bless you

    Reply
  36. Concita Kemp

    She was a wonderful tennis player!! R.I.P 🙏🙏🙏🙏

    Reply
  37. Christine Lyth

    So sad remember watching her play thoughts with her family

    Reply
  38. Raymond Cooke

    Along with Pele she ranks as one of the two greatest Brazilian sportsman/women. I was privileged to watch her play, if only on TV, and she brought grace, skill, joy and humility to the sport she loved.

    Reply
  39. Kim Pamela Bliss

    Very sad RIP Maria, a joy to watch, so unlike the grunting ladies of today

    Reply
  40. Enid Sanders

    So elegant, wonderful player R.I.P. Maria

    Reply
  41. Pat Day

    One of my first tennis favourites, sad to hear she has died.

    Reply
  42. Ann Gosling

    Sad to hear that Maria Bueno had died I remember watching her play and how she shocked Wimbledon by warding frilly knickers she bought fashion to the sport RIP x

    Reply
  43. Margaret Bowen

    She gave us a lot of pleasure over th last years. She will be sadly missed.

    Reply
  44. Jenny Hodgkinson

    RIP Maria. I too enjoyed watching you play, especially the year that you won Wimbledon. 🎾

    Reply
  45. Jean Cox

    I remember watching Maria play when I was growing up, never thought there would be a better player but with the evolution of time, improved racquets, and super fitness has changed the game so much together with much improved courts.

    Reply
  46. Amelia Thomson

    I loved watching Maria play, she was so elegant & graceful. Very sad news.

    Reply
  47. Yvonne Chadburn

    Sad news of the death of a fabulous tennis player,was an absolute joy to watch,not like today’s grunters and groaner!she played with such elegance,R I P,xxx

    Reply
  48. Barbara McCudden

    Sad news. She was a beautiful tennis player and lady. Remember her well.

    Reply
  49. Maureen Mcinerney

    So tragic – what a tennis player she was – so gifted 🎾

    Reply
  50. Liz McPeake

    She played the most beautiful tennis. 😪

    Reply
  51. Chris Fisher

    I am very sad to hear that. The most graceful tennis player of all.

    Reply
  52. Annabelle Trent

    I had the great privilege of seeing her play many times.
    I also met her on more than one occasion, she was always very gracious and friendly, although she struck me as being rather shy.
    She was such a graceful player to watch and her demeanor was exemplary. A Sad loss to the tennis world.

    Reply
  53. Grace Thomson

    One of my very favourites – so elegant and no screeching!

    Reply
    • Kay Scrimshaw

      Watching a game at the moment with the sound down, and iam very deaf

      Reply
  54. Linda Allsop

    A graceful player. Always a pleasure to watch.

    Reply
  55. Barbara Mackenzie

    Sorry to hear of Maria Bueno’s death. What a lovely lady and a wonderfully elegant and talented player.

    Reply
  56. Kay Scrimshaw

    Not the best player of the day , but the most elegant, envied by many, a great lady

    Reply
  57. Maxine Davies

    One of my all time favourite players. Very sad. R.I.P. Maria. 💐

    Reply
  58. Pat Earl

    I remember watching her when I was very young a beautiful player so elegant and talented, sad news.

    Reply
  59. Barbara Everton

    Loved watching Maria Bueno as her tennis was so elegant & delightful to watch…RIP

    Reply
  60. Irene McLoughlin

    Beautiful lady so elegant on and off the court lived her frilly knickers RIP xxx

    Reply
  61. Judy Morris

    So sad. Loved watching her. RIP. 💐

    Reply
  62. Allison Burns

    Aw so sad to hear this. I loved watching her. She was so graceful. RIP.

    Reply
  63. Kath Cunningham

    I can remember watching her on tv at Wimbledon so sad 😢😢

    Reply
  64. Irene Allen

    One of the greats to grace tennis courts around the globe. RIP

    Reply
  65. Phillip Reeves

    Rest in Peace Maria. Loved watching you play. You were so elegant, almost like a ballet dancer, and a true ambassador for this wonderful game. I am 67 now but I still watch ALL the majors and I love it. 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼👍👍⭐️⭐️

    Reply
  66. Rosemary Young

    Same here, my Tennis heroine when I was young, my favourite player to watch, so sad. RIP

    Reply
  67. Iris Duffy

    Always looked so happy, a great role model for any up and coming ladies tennis player. RIP Maria. ♥️

    Reply
  68. Judith Wedgwood

    Maria Bueno was my Tennis heroine when I was a young girl – a beautiful player

    Reply
  69. Liz Hart

    So enjoyed watching her. Like a ballet dancer. RIP.

    Reply
  70. Jennifer Key

    A lovely tennis player, so elegant & gracious RIP a true ambassador for the game

    Reply
  71. Valerie Sprott

    So sad. She was the winner I saw on my first visit to Wimbledon. A very graceful player. RIP.

    Reply
  72. Kathleen Oneill

    She hooked me on to tennis.what a player so talented and so so elegant and feminine. Rip Maria xxxxx

    Reply
  73. Leontia Kerr

    Asleep with the angels 👼🏼👼🏼👼🏼👼🏼

    Reply
  74. Elaine James

    Maria was the 1st Lady player I saw play at Wimbledon in the 60s…loved her style grace & fashion …she was always smiling…a great role model 💖

    Reply
  75. Sandra Petrie

    Wonderful tennis player classy lady so sad rest in peace Maria x

    Reply

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