The US Open is one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments at an international level, and the last of the four Grand Slams that take place within the season. As is always the case, Spanish players have left a profound mark on the US Open, whom form an indisputable part of the history of the competition. From Santana to Rafa Nadal, not forgetting Manuel Orantes, Arantxa Sánchez and Juan Carlos Ferrero; these tennis legends of Spanish origin have tasted success at Flushing Meadows in one the greatest feats of the sport.
1881 would mark the beginning of a unique tournament, one of the greatest tennis events that annually brings together more than 600 players from all corners of the world. The Open and its courts have witnessed the victories of legends such as Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Novak Djokivic as well as many others, but also the victories of some of Spain’s most famous players.
Manolo Santana, The Genius That Made Everything Possible
The journey of Spanish tennis within the Grand Slam began in 1965, thanks to the flawless performance of Manolo Santana. Traditionally, the grass has been one of the greatest challenges of our game, making the triumph by Manolo over the South African Cliff Drysdale in four sets, an even greater win.
Santana became the first Spanish person to achieve such a feat, though he would not be the last. Ten years later, the tournament would yield yet again to another virtuoso of the racket, this time with Andalucian roots, Manuel Orantes.
A Star of The Racket
From 1975 onwards, Manuel Orantes would follow the footsteps of Santana after beating the virtuoso Jimmy Connors. The Illinois player was considered favorite and most likely to win, so it must have been a harsh defeat at 6-4 6-3 6-3 to the hands of a player considered to be his inferior. Much has been said about that epic encounter, whether Connors was not on his best performance, or whether he underestimated his opponent or other such rumors trying to justify the shocking defeat, now considered a legend.
Since 2012, Orantes has had a place in the hall of fame at Newport, Rhode Island – An honour very few have managed to achieve. Shortly after, the US Open would experience a lack of Spanish presence for over a quarter of a century.
Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario, Valor and Determination
Finally in 1993, we come to one of the most famous triumphs not only being from the women’s category, but for international tennis as well when Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario confronted German, Steffi Graf. Nothing in the first two sets would suggest that this Barcelona bred woman would have any chance of victory. But in the last set, Arantxa found an indescribable strength within, making a legendary comeback, ultimately landing her with the gold in the Open.
Arantxa has probably been one of the most famous female players from Spain and one of the best within Europe, so it’s no surprise she managed to hold the Number One ranking of the WTA.
Juan Carlos Ferrero, The Fiercest Player of The Court
In 2003, we yet again relive another historical moment, this time at the hands of Juan Carlos Ferrero, who confronted local Andy Roddick. Unfortunately, the splendid performance from the Valencian was not sufficient to beat the efforts of Roddick – both powerful and perfect.
A bittersweet result from the number one player of that season, who showed however, that not only can you fight with determination but also lose with humility. Ferrero would be remembered as one of the most fiercest players on the court.
Rafael Nadal, King of Kings
In 2010, fans around the world watched in awe, the clash between two Number One players: Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic in one of the most spectacular finals of all time.
After a three hours and 42 minute long game, 22 million spectators leaped from their seats to witness the victory of Nadal as he held the most important trophy of his career at just 24 years of age. Even more surprising, Nadal managed to yet again perform this feat just two seasons later, being one of the very few who have achieved this, an outstanding achievement for a sensational player.
Spanish tennis has experienced a plethora of success; during the last few decades, the quality and technique of its players have reached immense records, finishing on top of the world rankings for 141 weeks thanks to Nadal’s splendid match.
There are many reasons that justify these achievements, such as the governance of the Federation since 1992 and donations to Championships in times of economic crisis. We cannot forget the lesser appreciated aspects either – tennis clubs, schools and tennis summer camps all do their part to strengthen the sport and find its new and upcoming stars.
With these five legends, it is easy to see that the US Open holds a part of Spain’s sporting history, and there is still one very important aspect – who knows what new challenges lie ahead and will be overcome by Spanish hands? Whatever the case, it’s safe to say there is still lots to be won on the courts of Flushing Meadows.