Tennis star Maria Bueno dies, aged 78

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A national hero in her native Brazil, Bueno also had a special flair that probably cannot be taught.

That same year she went on to win the Wimbledon doubles alongside American Althea Gibson.

"She was very courageous", her nephew Pedro Bueno told reporters.

Brazilian President Michel Temer has led tributes to the star, tweeting that she would be remembered as "the number one of tennis in the hearts of all Brazilians".

Bueno was admitted to the Nove de Julho hospital in Sao Paulo on Tuesday, and the hospital released a statement confirming her death on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Former Brazilian great Maria Esther Bueno, victor of 19 Grand Slam singles and doubles titles from 1959-68, plays during a tennis exhibition on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil December 10, 2005. At 17, she left Brazil for the United States.

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.

Another doubles partner was Billie Jean King, with whom she won the Wimbledon title in 1965.

"I came from Brazil, where there were only clay courts and we didn't have any opportunities to practice on grass", she said in an interview with the WTA. Over the course of a superb tennis career, Bueno won 19 Grand Slam titles, including seven in singles.

Bueno was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1959, 1960, 1964 and 1966. "She faced the disease with the same courage she always faced challenges".