Maria Bueno: A Brazilian Tennis Legend
Published February 26, 2014 12:14
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - In the history of South American tennis, no player is more decorated than Brazilian Maria Bueno. She won a total of 19 Grand Slam titles, including all four doubles titles in the same year in 1960, was ranked No.1 in the world and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1978 - only one of two South American women to have that honor, along with Gabriela Sabatini.
Currently a commentator for SportTV and a Rio Open Ambassador, Bueno understands her legacy in the sport and the impact it has had on the record books for South America.
"In 1960 I won the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open with different partners," she told wtatennis.com. "So it was a huge thing. I think very few people - about four or five - have done that; great names like Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver. In total, I have 19 Grand Slams, which is not too bad."
Even before winning the calendar Grand Slam, a feat only she, Martina Navratilova, Pam Shriver and Martina Hingis have attained, she was named the 1959 Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year, an honor recognizing the best across all sports. But neither her Grand Slam nor her AP award stick out as her greatest moment.
"Absolutely winning Wimbledon in 1959 was the greatest moment of my career. It was a bit unexpected as I was very young - 17 years old. Coming from Brazil where we had only clay courts, we didn't have a chance to really play on grass, so winning the first time was huge and a big surprise."
Can we expect to see some surprises from a compatriot and contemporary of Bueno? Brazil's Teliana Pereira cracked the Top 100 last year and made her Grand Slam main draw debut at the 2014 Australian Open. During the current Brazilian swing on the WTA - the Rio Open last week and Brasil Tennis Cup this week - she will have the home crowd support and could make waves for her country in the draw.
Bueno sees passion in rising South American players like Pereira and has looked back at her career to give these future stars some "Hall of Famer" advice, but recognizes the patience and continued effort it takes to become a legend of the game.
"As long as they don't put too much pressure on themselves or people put too much pressure on them, they might do very well - they are very interested in playing... You have to do pretty well to become a legend and get into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, so I think we have to wait a little while."
Last week, Bueno was an ever-present personality at the Rio Open and saw the impact the tournament has on tennis in Brazil - even among other major sporting events including the World Cup and Olympics, set to be hosted in her country in the next few years.
"I think for tennis, it is more valuable what we are doing here; giving fans the chance to see tennis. This tournament this week will be very, very important and very special for tennis."