Manuel Santana, great Spanish tennis player, dies at the age of 83 | ATP circuit


Manuel Santana, one of Spain’s greatest sports heroes, died on Saturday at the age of 83 in Marbella. The four-time major singles champion had been director of the Mutua Madrid Open tournament until 2019, when he became honorary president of the ATP Masters 1000 tournament.

Upon hearing the news, Felipe VI, King of Spain, posted on Twitter: “There are people who become legends and make a great country. Manolo Santana was and always will be one of them.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said: “He won Roland Garros, the US Open and Wimbledon, a total of 72 tournaments and an Olympic gold medal to make him a tennis legend and one of the best athletes that our country has seen.

Rafael Nadal, 20 times major champion and five times winner of the Mutua Madrid Open, paid tribute on Twitter, writing: “You will always be unique and special. As I have said many times in the past: many thanks for what you have done for our country and for paving the way for others. You have always been my role model, a friend and someone close to all of us.

At the height of his fame, when Santana could barely leave his home, he took Spain to the world group final in the 1965 and 1967 Davis Cup campaigns (l. In Australia both times). He was able to mingle with the elite of Spanish society and government.

Manuel Santana plays against Nicola Pietrangeli on his way to his first title at Roland Garros on May 28, 1961. Photo: AFP / Getty Images

Santana’s father, Braulio, moved from Valladolid in northwest Spain to Chamatin on the outskirts of Madrid, but died when his son was 16. “Manolo”, as he was known in the tennis world, was born in the midst of civil war and was one of four sons. The family shared a single bathroom with an entire building.

He quietly dropped out of his local school at the age of 10, when he realized he could get tips as a ball collector at Club Tenis in Velasquez, earning welcome money. for his mother, Mercedes, and two years later he carved his first wooden tennis racquet. Santana, who traveled downtown by tram, won the club’s ball boys tournament at the age of 13 and became a member of the club.

Shortly after her father’s death in 1954, Santana came under the management of the Romero Giron family, which changed the point of view of her life. Giron’s widow, Gloria, and two of her children, Alvaro and Aurora, provided young Santana with a structured daily routine. There was weight lifting in the gym before breakfast with the Giron family, followed by tennis lessons, a daily trip to lunch with his mom and siblings, and then back for the study of the afternoon with a tutor. It was tough, having skipped school for almost five years, but Santana eventually graduated from high school in the United States.

Santana, who won the Spanish junior championships in 1955 and 1956, was not allowed to travel internationally on his own until 1959, when the Giron family felt he was both mature and social. . He completed his military service in 1960 and the following year, with improved English, he beat two-time champion Nicola Pietrangeli, who would later become Santana’s great friend, 4-6, 6-1, 3-6 , 6-0, 6-2 in the Roland-Garros final in 1961. Santana, who extended the rally to force Pietrangeli to fight for every point, cried for an hour afterwards.

Santana, who had her first clay court success, possessed excellent hand-eye coordination, a powerful forehand and could disguise her drop shot. He regained the Roland-Garros crown in 1964, when he again beat Pietrangeli, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 7-5, in the final.

After saying once that ‘Grass is for cows’, a statement echoed by dozens of players in the future, Santana’s confidence and play matured on the surface, largely centered on her speed, anticipation and his desire to change his style. He played for the US Nationals [now named US Open] seven times, losing twice in the first round in 1960 and 1964, but Santana became the first European to lift the trophy since Fred Perry in 1936. He beat Cliff Drysdale, who would go on to become ATP’s first president, 6 -2, 7 -9, 7-5, 6-1 in the 1965 final.

Santana’s greatest singles triumph came on July 1, 1966, when he won the Wimbledon Trophy over Dennis Ralston 6-4, 11-9, 6-4 and kissed the hand of Princes Marina of Kent upon receiving the famous trophy, which went against royal protocol. . He was the first European to win the Wimbledon title since Frenchman Yvon Petra in 1946. Later in 1966, Santana, considered the world No. 1 amateur, underwent surgery on his right ankle, which left him. left hesitant in his movement.

Santana played the doubles sparingly, but won the Roland Garros doubles title in 1963 with Roy Emerson. At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Santana won a gold in singles and a silver in doubles (along with Juan Gisbert), where tennis was a demonstration / exhibition sport.

Retired, Santana was captain of the Spain Davis Cup team between 1980 and 1985, then again from 1995 to 1999. Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1984, he led the Manolo Santana Racquets Club in Marbella as well as the Sport Center Manolo. Santana in Madrid. The main court of Caja Magica, venue of the Open Mutua de Madrid, is named in his honor.

He has received numerous awards, including the Gold Medal for Sports Merit (1965), the Grand Cross of Isabella the Catholic (1966), the Gold Medal of the Villa of Madrid (1970), the Medal for Merit sportsman of the City of Madrid (1996), the Grand Cross of Sports Merit (2000), the Grand Cross of the Dos de Mayo of the Community of Madrid (2008) and the Francisco Fernández Ochoa Prize 2010 of the National Sports Awards.

Married four times, Santana had five children: Manuel, Beatriz, Borja, Barbara and Alba. He lived with his last wife, Claudia, in Marbella and in recent years suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

Manuel Martinez Santana, tennis player and tournament director, born May 10, 1938, died December 11, 2021

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