Tennis fraternity condoles demise of Spanish great Manuel Santana
The tennis fraternity paid their condolences after Manuel Santana, one of Spain's greatest sporting heroes, passed away aged 83 on Saturday in Marbella.
Honorary President of the Madrid Open, after being its director since 2002, Santana was one of the most important athletes in Spain in the 20th century, establishing himself as a pioneer by winning four Grand Slam titles (Roland Garros 1961, 1964; Wimbledon 1966; United States Open 1965) among other great conquests.
Upon hearing the news, Rafael Nadal, a 20-time major champion, paid tribute on Twitter, writing: "You will always be one of a kind and special. As I have said many times in the past: a thousand thanks for what you did for our country and for opening the way for others. You were always my role model, a friend and someone who was close to all of us."
World number one and 20 times major Champion, Novak Djokovic tweeted: "Heartbreaking to just get the news about Manolo Santana. Sending my deepest condolences and prayers to his family and all who loved him, which is so many. Thank you dear Manolo for paving the way, you will be missed and celebrated always! Rest In Peace legend! #manolosantana."
Legendary Rod Laver wrote: "My thoughts are with good friend Manolo Santana, who has passed away. A clay court maestro, Manolo famously said grass was for cows, but still managed to win Wimbledon in 1966, and inspired generations of Spanish players with his renowned heavy topspin and fighting spirit."
Sports icon Billie Jean King wrote: "The great Manolo Santana has passed away. He & I won our 1st #Wimbledon singles titles in 1966 (he was the first Spanish man to win the title). We danced the 1st dance at the Ball. He loved the sport, & we shared many conversations over the years. Condolences to his family."
"Gutted to hear of the passing of one of the all-time nice humans who also played our beautiful sport of tennis so beautifully. A master and a gentleman on and off the court- RIP my friend, Senor Manolo Santana... #TennisHallOfFame," Martina Navratilova, a 59 major titles winner wrote.
Coming from a humble family at a time when tennis was considered a sport only for the upper classes in Spain, Santana became a stalwart of the country's Davis Cup team, amassing a 69-17 win-loss record in singles between 1958 and 1973.