10 of the Best Female Latin American Tennis Players to Celebrate
The stories of the best female Latin American tennis players of all time are inspiring and groundbreaking. Most of them were the “first ever” at what they did.
That’s how you change the world—by being like those brave people who embark on journeys with destinations unknown and who take paths never taken before.
Together let’s get inspired as we explore the stories of 10 amazing Latin American women who broke with tradition and created a new reality for themselves and for the women of their countries.
From the legendary Gabriela Sabatini to the Fernández of the Caribbean, the stories of these female Latin American tennis players will leave you with a sense that nothing is impossible.
The Importance of Celebrating “The Female Greats” of Sports
Think about the greatest names in sports. Which names came to mind? Odds are that you thought of figures such as Lebron James, Lionel Messi, Tiger Woods, or Roger Federer. All hugely successful and deserving, but also all men.
Now think of the equivalent to those big names but in female sports. Maybe Serena Williams comes to mind in tennis, but in the other sports it’s not that easy, right?
The advance of women’s rights in our society is still a work in progress, and we need to keep pushing the boundaries to create a truly equal world. That’s why here at HSA we celebrate women’s successes and focus on highlighting their groundbreaking stories.
Women in Latin America
If women fight an uphill battle around the world, their struggle for equal rights in Latin America is even more complicated. Changing traditional roles for women in this conservative society has proven to be quite a challenge.
However, little by little, women from different spheres of society have been breaking the mold one step at a time. The inspiring stories of the best female Latin American tennis players of all time are a reminder that change is possible and that sports is a great place to start.
10 Best Female Latin American Tennis Players
Although Latin America has had its fair share of tennis figures along the years, the sport’s popularity in the region is nothing compared to that of soccer. When talking about female Latin American tennis players, the number of famous names shrinks even more as the culture of tennis is still developing across the continent.
Nevertheless, I’m sure you’ll recognize some of the names on this list of the best female Latin American tennis players of all time.
1. Gabriela Sabatini
While she’s not the most successful Latin American female in the sport, she’s definitely the biggest name of them all. Sabatini took the tennis world by storm in the 1980s and 1990s. Her aggressive tennis style mixed with her undeniable beauty put her in the spotlight and made her one the most famous Latin American tennis players of all time.
Sabatini won a total of 27 single titles on the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) Tour, being the 1990 US Open and the 1988 Olympic silver medal in Seoul her biggest triumphs.
2. Maria Bueno
Bueno is not only the most successful Latin American female player, but also outperforms all of the male Latin American tennis players whose skills and achievements get nowhere close to hers. This Brazilian figure played from 1958 to 1970, in an era when women’s rights in the continent still had a ways to go and she became an inspiration for girls all around the region. She went on to win 7 Grand Slam singles titles and 11 Grand Slam doubles titles.
3. Anita Lizana
The legend of Anita Lizana is huge and alive in her native Chile, even though it’s been over 80 years since her greatest triumph: the 1937 US Open. She opened the door for all the other Latin American tennis players, as she was the first person (either male or female) from the region to win a Grand Slam title and to be ranked as the number one player in the world.
4. Gigi Fernández
Gigi’s achievements exceed the realms of tennis as she was the first female athlete from any sport to become a professional. She was declared the 10th most influential Hispanic athlete in history by espnW, was named Puerto Rico’s Female Athlete of the Century in 1999, and inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2010. She won 17 Grand Slam titles in doubles and two Olympic gold medals.
5. Mary Joe Fernández
Another Fernández, from another small island in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic in this case. Mary Joe was born in Santo Domingo in 1971, and turned professional in 1986. She won 7 singles titles and 19 doubles titles including two Grand Slams. She won two Olympic gold medals competing for the US in doubles with Gigi Fernández, and at one point in her career she was ranked number 4 in the world both in singles and doubles.
6. Paola Suárez
Suárez is one more of the great female Latin American tennis players who excelled in doubles. The Argentinian won eight Grand Slam titles in doubles, and came close to equal Sabatini’s achievements in singles when she reached the semifinal at Roland Garros in 2004.
7. Fiorella Bonicelli
Successful Latin American tennis players also come from Uruguay, and Bonicelli is proof of that. She won the women’s Roland Garros doubles title in 1976 playing with French player Gail Sherriff, and the mixed doubles title also at Roland Garros in 1975 with Brazilian tennis player Thomas Koch.
8. Mónica Puig
In 2016, and following the path opened by Gigi Fernández, Puig became the first Puerto Rican athlete, male or female, to win an Olympic gold medal. Nowadays, she makes TikToks, and co-stars “My Tennis Life,” a digital show at the Tennis Channel.
9. Garbiñe Muguruza
Muguruza plays under the Spanish flag, but she was born in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1993. She has won 7 singles titles, including two Grand Slams. She has also won 5 doubles titles. She became the world’s number one player in 2017, and ranks 16th all-time in prize money earned.
10. Nadia Podoroska
Don’t let her name fool you, Podoroska is Argentinian and one of the best current female Latin American tennis players in the circuit. She won the Pan American games gold medal in 2019. As of January 2021, she’s ranked as the 47 best player in the world, but was just declared the “Breakthrough Player of the Month” in October 2020 by the WTA.
Sports, Feminism, and Spanish
That’s a strong combination. Through the power of sports and the reach of Spanish, women in Latin America are changing their world one tennis match at a time. It all started a long time ago with the path opened by Anita Lizana, and followed by great stars such as Bueno and Sabatini. Every girl in the continent now looks up at their achievements and knows that a different world is possible.
To know more about female Latin American tennis players and their struggle in what’s been deemed for so long “a man’s world,” you’d benefit from speaking their language to truly understand their culture. Learning Spanish these days is easier than ever before. If you’re ready to give it a shot, sign up for a free trial class with one of our certified Spanish teachers from Guatemala and start having tennis conversations in Spanish today!
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