Rafael Nadal honors Spanish trailblazer Manolo Santono, who dies at 83

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Rafael Nadal honors Spanish trailblazer Manolo Santono, who dies at 83

On Saturday, a four-time Major winner and the Spanish tennis trailblazer Manolo Santana died at 83 in Marbella. Recognized as one of the most accomplished Spanish players of all time, Santana became the first Wimbledon champion from this country in 1966 and led his nation towards two Davis Cup finals.

Santana played for his country between 1958-1973 and scored jaw-dropping 92 wins in singles and doubles, doing his best to earn the trophy for Spain but losing both finals in 1965 and 1967. Manolo claimed the national titles in 1955 and 1956, preparing for international duties a few years later and becoming a Major champion on his beloved clay at Roland Garros in 1961.

Three years after the first crown, the Spaniard lifted the second crown in Paris, ousting his good friend Nicola Pietrangeli in the repeat of 1961 final. A year later, Santana conquered the US Open on his third trip to New York, beating Arthur Ashe and Cliff Drysdale in the last two encounters to become the first European champion in New York since Fred Perry in 1936.

Despite a famous sentence that "grass is for cows," the Spaniard had made massive improvements in his game on the fastest surface and became the Wimbledon champion in 1966, standing as the only male Spanish player to achieve that until Rafael Nadal in 2008.

Manolo was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1984, and he served as the Spanish Davis Cup winner in the 80s and 90s. The main Caja Magica court carries Santana's name, and he served as the tournament director of the Masters 1000 event in the Spanish capital until 2019.

Rafael Nadal, Simona Halep and many others sent their last goodbye to the legend.

Manolo Santana died on Saturday at 83.

"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," Rafael Nadal said. "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," Billie Jean King said. "We lost a tennis legend and a great, kind man today. Rest In Peace, Manolo Santana," Simona Halep said.

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