Tributes pour in as Wimbledon winner and tennis star Manola Santana dies aged 83

Manola Santana, the first Spanish player to win Wimbledon, has died aged 83.

Santana, who claimed two French Open titles and a US Open crown, had been battling long-term illness and poor health prior to the announcement he had passed away in Malaga on Saturday.

Regarded as one of the best players ever produced by his country, he also led Spain to Davis Cup glory and triumphed at the 1968 Mexico Olympics – although tennis was only deemed an exhibition sport at the Games at the time.

He remained active in the sport even in his latter years, organising the Madrid Masters up until 2019 and managing the Manolo Santana Racquets Club, a tennis club in Marbella, and the Sport Centre Manolo Santana, in Madrid.

He was last seen at SW19, where he attended a match to support compatriot Rafael Nadal, the only other Spaniard to win a men's championship at SW19.

Indeed, following the news it was Nadal who led the tributes to Santana on social media.

"We will miss you Manolo; you will always be unique and special," he tweeted, alongside a past photo of the pair.

"Greetings to your family and a lot of strength at this time. We will never forget you!"

Simona Halep also took to Twitter to pay her respects, saying "We lost a tennis legend and a great, kind man today. Rest In Peace Manolo Santana."

The Tennis TV account posted a video clip of Santana Nadal walking towards the stands at a tournament to embrace Santana, and added "May 1938 – December 2021. Rest in peace, Manolo Santana."

His last Grand Slam win was arguably the most iconic moment of his career, winning the Wimbledon title by beating sixth seed Dennis Ralston in the final 6–4 11–9 6–4. During games, he played with the Real Madrid football crest on his shirt.

Ironically however, his finest hour subsequently brought him an unwanted record, as the following season he became the first Wimbledon champion to be knocked out in the first round. Only Lleyton Hewitt has since suffered the same fate.

Only a year ago, Santana's contribution to the sport was recognised when he was awarded the ITF Philippe Chatrier Award for his contribution to tennis – both on and off the court.

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