Manolo Santana won at Wimbledon in 1966. / EFE

Marbella says goodbye to Spanish tennis legend Manolo Santana

After a cremation service in Madrid, the tennis player's ashes will return to be scattered on the Costa del Sol, as he wished, according to his widow

BORJA GUTIÉRREZ

On Sunday, 12 December, Marbella said its last goodbye to the Spanish tennis legend and its "finest ambassador", Manolo Santana, who died in the Costa del Sol town on Saturday, at the age of 83.

Family, friends, personalities and neighbours paid their respects to the coffin of the legendary tennis player at a chapel in Marbella, before it travelled to a cremation service in Madrid, another place close to the player's heart, this Monday, 13 December.

JOSELE

But the tennis ace's dying wish was to stay in Marbella. “This was his home”, explained his widow, Claudia Rodríguez, who also confirmed that his ashes will return to the Costa del Sol to be scattered around Marbella, as he wished.

Mayor of the town, Ángeles Muñoz. “These are sad days for sport, but above all for Marbella and all the people who knew Manolo. He was a person who has been the best ambassador we have ever had. He was the town's adopted son. He carried the name of Marbella everywhere he travelled. He has lived among us for 30 years and his legacy will always continue,"declared the civic head.

Recognition

“When these sad few days have passed, we will see how we can continue to recognise him so that his name will live on forever. He was such a good representative of the town and he deserves that recognition", said Muñoz, who was the first to arrive to pay her respects and was in charge of receiving the Spain's Minister of Culture and Sports, Miquel Iceta, who represented the Government. 

Iceta said, “With Manolo Santana we learned that the Roland Garros and Wimbledon tennis tournaments existed and that the Davis Cup could be won. Sometimes people one can be good athletes, but not leave a personal mark behind like Manolo. His example has touched us forever.” 

"We are all very sad because we lost a figure who made us believe in dreams at a time when Spanish sport was not the power it is today," added Miquel Iceta, who was accompanied by the former mayor of Marbella, José Bernal, on his visit to the Marbella chapel.

"Grass is just for cows"

Manuel Santana Martínez  was born in Madrid on 10 May, 1938. He began his tennis career as a ball boy but soon "picked up" the game. Before winning the US Open and Wimbledon, he was quoted as saying "grass is just for cows" and thought that tennis should be played on artificial surfaces as opposed to lawn tennis courts.

In 1965, Santana led Spain to unexpected victory over the United States in the Davis Cup, and he became a national hero. Despite Grand Slam successes in the French Championships (1961, 1964) and the US Championships (1965), Santana's win at the 1966 Wimbledon lawn tennis championships was a big surprise, where he defeated the sixth seed Dennis Ralston. Santana also topped the world tennis ranking in 1965. His last big tournament win was in 1970 in Barcelona when he defeated Rod Laver.