Brazilian tennis legend Maria Bueno dies after mouth cancer battle

Maria Bueno won Wimbledon for the first time in 1959 at the age of 19

Maria Bueno, the Brazilian "queen" of tennis, who won three Wimbledon and four USA championship singles titles, died Friday in Sao Paulo at age 78, the hospital where she was being treated said.

In 1959, she won her first titles at Wimbledon and the United States Nationals - an amateur tournament and predecessor to the United States Open.

Born in the city of Sao Paulo, Maria Esther Bueno made history as the first South American woman to win the Wimbledon singles title.

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

Bueno died at Sao Paulo hospital on Tuesday, but news of her death was not confirmed until Friday night. She had been suffering from mouth cancer since past year and was hospitalized in May.

Her one major title of the open era, when big tournaments opened to professionals, was the 1968 U.S. Open doubles alongside Australian legend Margaret Court. The hospital said that it would not release any more details on the passing of Bueno out of respect for her family. She was also the No. 1 ranked tennis player in the world in 1959, 1960, 1964 and 1966.

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Later that year, she won the first of her four U.S. Open titles and was named the year's top female athlete.

Bueno was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1978.

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

A self-taught prodigy, she brought grace to the game and was a dominant force, BBC Americas editor Leonardo Rocha writes. "I had a lot of natural talent, but I had to work hard too", she told The Times.

For years after retirement she was a commentator on Brazil's SporTV. "And the people at the other end didn't know why, until I changed ends and served from there".