Manolo Santana, Spanish Tennis Legend, Dies At 83

Manolo Santana with Stefan Edberg (2017)

WASHINGTON, December 11, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Manolo Santana, one of Spain’s most important 20th century athletes, has died. The 83-year-old Santana’s death was announced via social media by the Mutua Madrid Open, whom Santana served as tournament director from 2002 to 2019 and was honorary president. He died at his residence in Marbella, Spain. No cause of death was given.

Santana, born in Madrid in 1938, was the No. 1-ranked amateur men’s tennis player in the world in 1965. The first Spanish man to win a Grand Slam title, Santana won four major singles titles during his career – Roland-Garros in 1961 and 1964, the U.S. National Championships (which later became the US Open in 1968) in 1965 and Wimbledon in 1966. He was the first Spaniard man to win Roland-Garros, the U.S. National Championships and Wimbledon.

“I have just received the terrible news of the passing of our great Manolo Santana,” wrote Rafael Nadal on Twitter Saturday. “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. You were always a reference, a friend and a person close to everyone.”

Spain’s King Felipe VI echoed Nadal when he wrote on Twitter“There are people who become legends and make a country great. Manolo Santana was and will always be one of them.”

Santana became a national hero after leading Spain to a surprising victory over the United States in the 1965 Davis Cup competition en route to a runner up finish against Australia. His last big tournament title victory came in 1970 when he won Barcelona over Rod Laver, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. He also captured the Barcelona doubles title with Lew Hoad over Laver and Andrés Gimeno, 6-4, 9-7, 7-5. Santana was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1984.

At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Santana won the gold medal in singles when it was a demonstration sport.

Among Santana’s many accolades, he was captain of Spain’s Davis Cup team twice, once in the 1980s and again for four-and-a-half years in the mid-1990s.

In 2020, Santana was the recipient of the ITF Philippe Chatrier Award for his contributions to tennis, both on and off the court.

Many social media tributes for Manolo Santana

Soon, after news of Santana’s passing spread across social media, the tributes for the Spanish legend and kind gentleman began to pour in. Among them:

• 🙏 Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Manolo Santana, who has passed away today at the age of 83. 🖤 – Roland-Garros

“Sad news for the tennis world,” Spain’s Paula Badosa, who ascended to WTA World No. 8 this season, wrote: Thank you for having opened the way so that many of us later have been able to travel it. Rest In Peace Manolo Santana.”

• Three-time Spanish Davis Cup champion David Ferrer wrote: “RIP Manolo, you were always the best. Thank you for teaching us to achieve our dream and above all thank you for being someone so special.”

• Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep of Romania, who twice won the Mutua Madrid Open, in 2016 and 2017, wrote: “We lost a tennis legend and a great, kind man today. Rest In Peace Manolo Santana.”