Tennis star Maria Bueno dies, aged 78

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The hospital said that it would not release any more details on the passing of Bueno out of respect for her family. Over the course of a superb tennis career, Bueno won 19 Grand Slam titles, including seven in singles.

Ms. Bueno, who won her first national championship in Brazil at age 14, was known for her lithe, graceful style on the court and for her powerful serve and backhand.

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

Bueno's last major title came in 1968 when she won the doubles title at the U.S. Open alongside Margaret Court — one of her biggest rivals in singles.

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"Brazil and the world lost a true tennis legend", tweeted the International Olympic Committee, one of several sports organizations and professional tennis players to praise Bueno's contribution. And although she once told reporters "I'm afraid of everyone I play", her glory days were only just beginning. She was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1959, 1960, 1964 and 1966.

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

A self-taught prodigy, she brought grace to the game and was a dominant force, BBC Americas editor Leonardo Rocha writes.

Fellow tennis player Thomaz Koch said Bueno was a fun-loving person who loved to tell jokes.

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"She was an artist on the tennis court".

She went on to win the Wimbledon doubles that same year alongside American Althea Gibson.

She was labelled the "Sao Paulo Swallow" for her ability to dominate the net by former BBC Sport commentator John Barrett.

An arm injury forced her out of competition from 1969 to 1974.

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"There was a gasp from one end of the court", Ms. Bueno later recalled.