While the four round-robin groups at the WTA Finals Fort Worth are named for four deserving WTA Legends, it was Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia who etched her name in tennis' history books on Tuesday night.
Already the first Brazilian to compete at the year-end championships in its 51st edition, Haddad Maia also became the first to win a match when she and Anna Danilina upset No. 2 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos 7-5, 6-0 in the Pam Shriver Group.
"It feels very special," Haddad Maia said after her and Danilina's victory. "It's a special year for me, for sure. I've been working very hard to be here ... Because of this team, and everybody who is behind me, I have the opportunity to improve and to keep positive. I'm happy and proud of them as well. It feels great."
Haddad Maia was already a history-maker for her country several times in her career. In 2017, she became the first Brazilian woman to beat a Top 20 player in 30 years, and also the first to win a main-draw singles match at Wimbledon since 1989. A year later, she became the first to win a main-draw singles match at the Australian Open in the Open Era, and first at all since Hall of Famer Maria Bueno reached the final in 1965.
But in 2022, she's raised the bar in both singles and doubles. When she and Danilina reached the Australian Open doubles final in January, Haddad Maia joined Bueno and Claudia Montiero as the only Brazilian women to ever reach a Grand Slam final. In June, she won her first career Hologic WTA Tour singles title in Nottingham, the first Brazilian to win on grass since Bueno more than 50 years earlier. A week later, she became the first woman from her country to leave with the title in the storied 40-year history of the grass-court Rothesay Classic Birmingham.
Two months after that? She broke new ground by being the first to reach a WTA 1000 final when she finished as runner-up in Toronto. She stunned World No.1 Iga Swiatek in three sets in Round 3 there.
She arrived in Texas ranked No.15 in singles and No.13 in doubles, one of just four players to currently boast a ranking that high in both disciplines.
Legends of the game are taking note. "Hard work pays off," commented the official Instagram account of Eleven by Venus, Venus Williams' apparel and lifestyle brand, to highlight Haddad Maia's achievement. And Danilina, who herself is just the second Kazakh to compete at the year-end event, says she's enjoying the ride alongside her.
"Bia, besides being a great doubles player, is also a great singles player, so her returns and her serves give me extra confidence," she said.
The University of Florida graduate added with a laugh: "When she's on fire, it's great. I barely need to do anything! I don't need to. I'm just standing there, enjoying the view!"
One of many to acknowledge Bueno's influence on the sport in the aftermath of her 2018 passing, Haddad Maia is writing her own story in Texas. She and Danilina will next face Veronika Kudermetova and Elise Mertens in their second round-robin match in Fort Worth on Thursday.