MADRID: Manuel Santana, greatest Spanish tennis player until Rafael Nadal came along, has died at 83.

Santana won four major singles championships: at the French Open in 1961 and 1964, at the US Open in 1965 and at Wimbledon in 1966, the same year he reached the N1 ranking.

He had also won the 1963 French doubles with Roy Emerson and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1984.

Nadal led the messages of sympathy, saying: “As I have said many times in the past: a thousand thanks for what you did for our country and for opening the way for others. You were always my role model, a friend and someone who was close to all of us.”

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said: “He won Roland Garros, the US Open and Wimbledon, a total of 72 tournaments and an Olympic gold to make him a tennis legend and one of the best athletes our country has seen.”

Santana turned down offers to turn professional and became one of the biggest names on the “shamateur” tour of the 1960s. He said Wimbledon was the biggest of his four Grand Slam singles triumphs.