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