Spanish tennis great Manolo Santana passed away aged 83 on Saturday in Marbella.
The Madrid Open announced the death of its honorary president on Saturday. No cause of death was given.
Santana was the first Spaniard to win a Grand Slam title and ended up with four majors: he French Open in 1961 and 1964, at the US Open in 1965 and at Wimbledon in 1966. He also reached No 1 in the world in 1966.
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. pic.twitter.com/6GzSbzDcPT
— Rod Laver (@rodlaver) December 11, 2021
Santana was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1984.
“It’s difficult for a genius to be rewarded in tennis and Manolo was one of those few who could,” Gene Scott said at the induction ceremony where he spoke on Santana’s behalf.
“He literally invented one of the strokes that we now see in profusion — the backhand topspin lob.”
Upon hearing the news of Santana’s death, Felipe VI, the King of Spain, posted on Twitter, “There are people who become legends and make a country great. Manolo Santana was and will always be one of them.”
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 pic.twitter.com/yD9133duQj
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) December 11, 2021
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said, “He won Roland Garros, the US Open and Wimbledon, a total of 72 tournaments and an Olympic gold to make him a tennis legend and one of the best athletes our country has seen.”
Rafael Nadal, a 20-time major champion and five-time winner of the Mutua Madrid Open, 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.”
At the height of his fame, when Santana could barely leave his house, he took Spain to the World Group final in the 1965 and 1967 Davis Cup campaigns (lost to Australia both times).
Garbiñe Muguruza posted a photo of her with an elderly Santana with the message thanking him for his “goodness, warmth, and for showing us the way forward.
“You were always our reference point, for everyone in Spanish tennis, a pioneer,” the two-time Grand Slam winner said.
“So close and so attentive, in the good and bad times. We will miss you. All my love for your family and loved ones.”
Married four times, Santana fathered five children: Manuel, Beatriz, Borja, Barbara and Alba. He lived with his last wife, Claudia, in Marbella, and in recent years had suffered from Parkinson’s disease.