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Men's Tennis: 8 Spanish players who have won Grand Slams

The victorious Spanish Davis Cup Team of 2011
The victorious Spanish Davis Cup Team of 2011
Arjun

Tennis athletes from Spain have, over the years, perfected the art of playing on clay so much so that barring French nationals, Spanish athletes are ranked at the top of winners at Roland Garros since the inception of the tournament way back in the late 19th century. Since the turn of the century, Spain has excelled in the Davis Cup format winning the Davis Cup 5 times - more than any other nation since 2000.

Once considered an elitist sport in Spain, tennis has risen in popularity over the last decade or two and the success of players like Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza is largely a contributing factor. Three Spaniards have been ranked World Number 1 since the ATP rankings were introduced for the first time in 1973. The Madrid Masters is an ATP 1000 elite event and draws big crowds year after year. It is one of the most prestigious clay court tournaments in the world.

We look at the career graphs and highlight some of the achievements of 8 Spanish men's tennis players who won Grand Slam titles over the years :

# Albert Costa

Albert Costa with the French Open 2002 trophy
Albert Costa with the French Open 2002 trophy

At the age of 18, Albert Costa won the French Open junior title and the following year he turned professional. Quickly, he established himself as one of the sport's top clay court specialists. Costa had the remarkable ability to produce powerful backhands from acute angles, so much so that legendary Spanish tennis player of yesteryears - Andres Gimeo described him as one having 'two forehands'.

In 1994, Costa was named the ATP Newcomer of the Year. In 1995, he ended Thomas Muster's 40 match winning streak on clay and then made history as a member of Spain's first Davis Cup winning team in the year 2000. The same year, he won the Bronze medal at the Sydney Olympics in doubles along with partner Alex Corretja.

The highlight of Costa's career came at the French Open of 2002. Seeded 20, few expected Costa to be a challenger but a straight sets win over 3-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten in the 4th round made people stand up and take stock. An all Spanish semi-final followed as Costa beat long-time friend Alex Corretja to set up a date with another Spaniard - Juan Carlos Ferrero in the final. Costa won the match in 4 sets to win the French Open and rise to a career-high ranking of World Number 6.

Post-retirement in 2006, Costa became Spain's Davis Cup captain and is the country's most successful captain, leading the team to two victories in 2009 and 2011.

# Carlos Moya

Carlos Moya - present coach of Rafael Nadal
Carlos Moya - present coach of Rafael Nadal

A 20-year old unheard youngster from Spain, Carlos Moya grabbed headlines in 1996 when he beat one of the greatest clay court players - Thomas Muster at the semi-finals of the Hamburg Open, thus ending Muster's 38-match winning streak on clay. The following year, aged 21, he made his very first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open.

He shocked defending champion Boris Becker in the opening round and outclassed World Number 3 Michael Chang in the semi-finals. However, he had to be content with a runner-up finish losing to Pete Sampras in the final. The year 1998 saw Moya win his first and only Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. He beat pre-tournament favorite Marcelo Rios in the quarter-finals and also won his maiden ATP Masters title that year at the Monte Carlo Masters.

In 1999, he made history as he became the first Spanish player to top the ATP rankings. He was the hero for Spain in the 2004 Davis Cup as he won two crucial rubbers against Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish in the final against USA helping Spain win the Davis Cup title resoundingly. Presently, Moya is the head coach of Rafael Nadal.

# Andres Gimeno

Andres Gimeno - oldest ever player to win the French Open
Andres Gimeno - oldest ever player to win the French Open

Andres Gimeno was one of the most prominent tennis players in the Amateur Era. He honed his tennis skills under the legendary Australian tennis player and coach - Harry Hopman. In 1960, he made history by becoming the first Spanish player to win the Barcelona Open. Later, he joined the 'World Championship Tennis' circuit by turning professional and was automatically denied entry to Grand Slam tournaments. When the restriction of professional players participating in Grand Slams was lifted in 1968, Gimeno resumed participation in Grand Slams and made the final of the Australian Open in 1969 losing to Rod Laver.

In 1972, Gimeno won his first and only Grand Slam at the French Open and in the process became the oldest winner of the French Open Championships at the age of 34 - a record which stands even today. Gimeno was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in the year 2009.

# Manuel Orantes

Manuel Orantes - only the second Spaniard after Manuel Santana to win a Grand Slam title outside the French Open
Manuel Orantes - only the second Spaniard after Manuel Santana to win a Grand Slam title outside the French Open

Manuel Orantes was a dominant tennis player in the 1970s and 1980s. In his 19 year career, he won 36 singles titles and 22 doubles titles. In 1974, he made the final of the French Open. In the final, he lost to Bjorn Borg despite leading by two sets. He was a member of the victorious Spanish team of 1978 which won the inaugural World Team Cup.

His biggest achievement came in the year 1975 when he beat defending champion Jimmy Connors in the final of the US Open at Forrest Hills.


# Sergi Bruguera

Sergi Bruguera - first Spaniard to win back-to-back Grand Slam titles
Sergi Bruguera - first Spaniard to win back-to-back Grand Slam titles

Sergi Bruguera was a prolific tennis athlete of the 1990s. In 1989, Bruguera reached the 4th round of the French Open and was seen as one to look out for in the future. His rise was acknowledged by the tennis fraternity when he won the ATP Newcomer of the Year Award. He finished the year ranked World Number 26.

He won his first Grand Slam title in Paris in the year 1993. That year, he created a unique record by becoming the first player to achieve a triple bagel in a Grand Slam match in the Open Era. He did so by defeating Thierry Champion in the 2nd round.

In an epic 5 set clash that lasted over 4 hours, he prevailed over 2-time champion and 2nd seed Jim Courier. The following year, he became the first Spanish player to successfully defend his Roland Garros crown and reached a career-high ranking of World Number 3.

Bruguera is the only player to have a winning record against both Pete Sampras and Roger Federer. Bruguera took over the reins as the coach of the Spanish Davis Cup Team in 2018.

# Juan Carlos Ferrero

Juan Carlos Ferrero - 2nd Spaniard to be ranked ATP World Number 1
Juan Carlos Ferrero - 2nd Spaniard to be ranked ATP World Number 1

Nicknamed 'Mosquito' for his thin frame and lightning quick reflexes, Juan Carlos Ferrero came to prominence in 1999 when he won 4 titles including the Mallorcan Open in what was only his 5th tournament since turning professional. His exploits won him the ATP Newcomer of the Year award.

A string of good performances in 2000 saw him make it to the top-20 of the ATP rankings in the year 2000. That year, he won 2 crucial Davis Cup rubbers against Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt to hand Spain its very first Davis Cup trophy beating Australia 3-1 in the final.

In 2001, he captured his first Masters trophy in Rome beating 3-time Roland Garros winner Gustavo Kuerten in 5 sets. 2003 was his best year as he won the French Open - his only Grand Slam triumph. He was also a runner-up at the US Open that year.

Post his run to the US Open final, he became the 2nd Spaniard to be ranked World Number 1 by ATP. He is Spain's second most successful Davis Cup player with 3 title wins - behind only Nadal's tally of 4 wins.


# Manuel Santana

Manuel Santana - Spain's very first tennis superstar-
Manuel Santana - Spain's very first tennis superstar-

The story of Manuel Santana is truly inspirational. Having honed his tennis skills by working as a ball boy, Santana was Spain's very first tennis superstar and was the first Spanish player to cross the Grand Slam hurdle. A 2-time French Open winner in 1961 and 1964, Santana excelled across all courts though he on numerous occasions disliked playing on grass.

He won the US Open in 1965 and the following year much to the surprise of all, he won the Wimbledon Championships - becoming the first Spaniard to do so. It was only 40 years later, that the feat would be emulated by another Spaniard. In 1968, he won the Gold medal in the Olympic Games although tennis was only a demonstration sport back then.

Post retirement, Santana has had numerous stints as coach of the Spanish Davis Cup Team and presently serves as the Director of the Madrid Masters tournament.

# Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal - King Of Clay
Rafael Nadal - King Of Clay

The only active player on the list is one who practically needs no introduction - Rafael Nadal. Arguably, the greatest fighter that tennis has ever had, Nadal's temperament and composure on court is unparalleled. Nadal, who comes from a family of accomplished sportsmen, was schooled by his uncle Toni Nadal, who inculcated in Rafa a sense of discipline and dedication. Unlike many other players, in his entire tennis career, Nadal has never smashed a racquet.

With 17 Grand Slam titles (2nd all-time) including a record 11 French Open titles, 33 ATP Masters 1000 trophies (an all-time record), 80 ATP Singles titles, 2 Olympic Gold medals in both singles and doubles combined and over a 100 million USD in career prize money, Nadal's numbers are simply breathtaking.

Not to mention, Nadal is also Spain's most successful Davis Cup player of all-time, helping his country win 4 Davis Cup crowns. At 32, Nadal still has a few years left in the tank and no one is close to his level on clay especially.

Edited by Rajdeep Puri

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