Pioneering, weeping and Pomp: 1st title of Simple by Maria Esther Bueno in Wimbledon makes 60 years
Brazilian was the first South American Grand Slam finalist and was honored to return to Brazil
By Helena Rebello — London, England
First title of Maria Esther Bueno at Wimbledon completes 60 years
The first reaction did not reflect the greatness of what had just happened. After greeting the opponent and the network judge, the sobbing came along with the awareness of the feat. At the age of 19, Maria Esther Bueno was the first Latin American champion of Wimbledon in singles. The title of the Brazilian, the first of the three individuals who would conquer in the sacred grass, completes 60 years this Thursday.
Maria Esther had won in the doubles the year before alongside American Althea Gibson. But it was the individual achievement that took her to a new recognition status in Brazil. She had a motorcade in a fire truck, an unprecedented decoration of the then President of the Republic, extensive coverage of the press and even commemorative stamp of the post.
Maria Esther was the number 6 key head of the tournament and soon at the premiere faced an athlete of the house. She passed the British Pauline Edwards without a scare. The following two games were the hardest, with a face on the German Margot Dittmeyer and the American Mimi Arnold. Opponent in the fourth round, Ruia Morrison remembers with affection the confrontation.
“I didn’t feel intimidated because I had already played against her in Montego Bay so I had an idea of what I would face. Obviously she would be a future champion. As I progressed in the game I began to use more effectively the blows I had. Drop shots, lobs, flat shots, topspin. I used the whole repertoire to make it harder for her to play. But she took it all and made it even harder for me. But I was satisfied with my performance. I went well, but she was better” – reminded the New Zealand, today with 83 years, in an interview with SporTV.
German Edda Budding and American Sally Moore were defeated in the sequel. In the decision, Maria faced the also American Darlene Hard, with whom she would make a successful partnership in the future – together the two won five Grand Slam titles in the doubles: two in Wimbledon (1960 and 1963), two in the United States (1960 and 1962) and one in Roland Garros ( 1960).
Maria Esther’s campaign at Wimbledon
Victory over Pauline Edwards for 6/1 and 6/3
Victory over Margot Dittmeyer for 4/6 6/1 and 6/1
Victory over Mimi Arnold for 5/7, 6/3 and 6/1
Victory over Ruia Morrison for 6/1 and 7/5
Victory over Edda Budding by double 6/3
Victory over American Sally Moore for 6/2 and 6/4
Victory over Darlene Hard for 6/4 and 6/3
Dressed in a model specially conceived by stylist Ted Tinling for the occasion, with pleated skirt, initials and palm trees embroidered on one side of the collar, Maria Esther modeled her graciousness on the central court. Even without taking it so well in the decisive game, always needing the second service, the Brazilian imposed the superiority demonstrated throughout the entire match. He even saw Hard save a championship point, but sealed the conquest on an American backhand out.
For a person who came alone from Brazil, where she had no grass court or anything, to get here and succeed, it was wonderful. (…) The feeling I had is that I was not even there, that it was someone else playing.
When he (judge) spoke game, set, match and championship I began to perceive the immensity of what had happened. I cried a lot. I do not know if it was relief, concern. Then it fell (the record) – said Maria, in an interview with reporter Bruno Côrtes in 2009.
Already eliminated, Ruia Morrison was one of the spectator of the female final. The New Zealander admits that it twisted to the American. But in the end, he felt proud to have been eliminated precisely by who was the best in that edition.
“I had many opportunities to interact with Darlene Hard and also train a few times with her, so my loyalty was to her. But the two played so well, and it happened that Mary had the last winning blow to be crowned queen of Wimbledon. Losing to Mary was a privilege for having been to the Wimbledon champion” – said Ruia, who is a member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) since 1960 for the services rendered to women’s tennis.
In the days following the conquest, Maria Esther Bueno stamped the pages of the main newspapers in the country. At that time they all omitted the H of Esther and often referred to the tennis player by the nickname “Esterzinha”. The title of Wimbledon, the most important Grand Slam of tennis, was cited as a world title.
The return to Brazil had a reception with about 10000 people at Congonhas Airport. From there, Maria Esther traveled the streets of São Paulo in a fire truck to the Club de Regatas Tietê, where she began her career – and where today there is a statue in her honor.
The motorcade was the first of many official events to celebrate the young tennis player. The Post office launched a commemorative postage stamp, something that previously only the world champions of football and basketball had. And Paulista was the first athlete in the country to receive the Medal of Sports merit, delivered personally by President Juscelino Kubitschek.
The pomp contrasted with the reality of amateur tennis at the time. For the championship in Wimbledon, Maria Esther said she received a voucher worth 15 pounds, a figure that at the current price would be equivalent to just over $70. By way of comparison, the 2019 edition champion will take home £2,350,000, over R $11.5 million.
In addition to the title of the United States Open, the result in London was instrumental in bringing the Brazilian to the world’s number 1 post for the first time in 1959, the year it would still be elected by the Associated Press the world’s best female athlete. Maria would reach the top of the world rankings also in 1960, 1964 and 1966.
Altogether were seven Grand Slams in Simple (Wimbledon in 1959, 1960 and 1964 and Open USA in 1959, 1963, 1964 and 1966), 11 in doubles (Wimbledon 1958, 1960, 1963, 1965 and 1966, US Open in 1960, 1962, 1966 and 1968, Australian Open in 1960 and Roland Garros in 1960) and a In mixed Doubles (Roland Garros 1960). A series of injuries and surgeries ended the glory years in 1967, but the career would extend to 1974.
Four years later, Maria Esther Bueno joined the tennis Hall of fame. Respected and revered in the middle, she was a guest of honor at Wimbledon and attended the Royal Box games every year. In 2015 he was present at the ceremony in which the central court of the Olympic Tennis Center, which would receive the sport in Rio 2016, was baptized in his honor.
The greatest Brazilian tennis player of all time died on June 8, 2018, at the age of 78, after a battle against cancer. Her legacy, however, is eternalised in the most important championships in the world.
The Skype Interview with Ruia Morrison