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Manolo Santana: Spanish tennis great dies aged 83

Rafael Nadal pays tribute to countryman Santana, who was the first Spaniard to win one of the four major titles and first player from his country to win Wimbledon “You were always a reference, a friend and a person close to everyone.”

Last Updated: 11/12/21 6:04pm

Manolo Santana retired in 1977

Manolo Santana, a four-time Grand Slam champion, has died at the age of 83.

The Spaniard became the first player from his country to win one of the four major titles at the French Open in 1961, before he later won at Roland Garros in 1964.

Santana won the US Open in 1965, before he made history as the first Spanish champion at Wimbledon in 1966, the same year he became world No 1, despite famously saying “grass is just for cows”.

“As I have said many times in the past: thank you so much for what you did for our country and for marking the path of so many,” said 20-times Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in Spanish on Twitter, accompanied by a picture of him alongside countryman Santana.

“You were always a reference, a friend and a person close to everyone.”

Santana won a gold medal in singles and a silver in doubles at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.

After retiring as a player in 1977, he became Spain’s Davis Cup captain and later served as the tournament director of the Madrid Open.

Santana was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1984.

Spain’s king and its prime minister echoed the sentiments of Nadal, calling Santana a legend.

Manolo Santana, centre, pictured alongside Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray at the Madrid Open in 2015

Manolo Santana, centre, pictured alongside Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray at the Madrid Open in 2015

“There are people who become legends and make a country great. Manolo Santana was and will always be one of them,” Spanish King Felipe VI wrote on Twitter.

Billie Jean King fondly recalled winning her first Wimbledon title alongside Santana’s triumph there in 1966.

“We danced the 1st dance at the Ball,” King wrote on Twitter.




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